Sir Gerald Kelly photograph collection

  • This material is held at
  • Reference
      GB 1082 GFK
  • Former Reference
      GB 1082 MS 184
  • Dates of Creation
      c 1902 - c 1966
  • Name of Creator
  • Language of Material
  • Physical Description
      13 boxes; 1 box of glass plate negatives; 1 oversize folder; 3 card index drawers

Scope and Content

The archive was re-housed on receipt into the Gallery, the description given below is according to the box numbers presumed to have been allocated on re-housing.

Box 1 - Portraits by Sir Gerald Kelly (Men)
Photographs (and in some cases photocopies) of portraits, some of which have been mounted on card. They have been arranged in folders in chronological order and the names of the sitters have been written on the folder. 1903-1967.

Box 2 - Portraits by Sir Gerald Kelly (Women)
Mainly loose photographs of portraits, some of which have been mounted on card and which are arranged in date order. There are two folders containing photographs of portraits at the top of the box, one titled Jane and the other H. M. Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother. 1902-1966.

Box 3 - Portraits by Sir Gerald Kelly (Burmese Subjects)
Loose photographs of portraits, some of which have been mounted on card. Includes two folders of photographs of portraits of Sao Ohn Nyunt and a folder of photographs of Burmese pictures with a typed list. c 1930s-c 1950s.

Box 4 - Portraits by Sir Gerald Kelly (Landscapes and still life subjects by Sir Gerald Kelly)
Contains the following folders of photographs of portraits, some of which have been mounted on card: Kelly pictures on exhibition, contains photographs of portraits; Sir Gerald Kelly Spanish pictures, contains photographs of portraits; Still life by Gerald Kelly, including Jane's still lifes; Nudes; Fruit and flowers; and Landscapes. c 1910s-c 1930s.

Box 5 - Photographs of Far Eastern Subjects
Contains loose photographs, some of which have been mounted on card. Includes images of scenary, groups of people and objects. c 1910s-c 1930s.

Box 6 - Photographs of the Great Wall of China
Photographs and postcards of the Great Wall of China. Includes a postcard from Bali of three girls in traditional dress; a copy of 'Souvenir Book 8, The Views of my tour at The Great Wall' published by Peking Art Studio, and a scroll containing a reproduction of a drawing of The Great Wall. c 1930s.

Box 7 - Facsimiles of paintings by other artists (French)
Photographs, postcards and some excerpts from publications which have been arranged into the following folders: Ingres; Chardin; Influences: Manet; Influences: French; Boucher, Watteau; and Nicholas Poussin. c 1920s-c 1950s.

Box 8 - Facsimiles of paintings by other artists (German, English)
Photographs, postcards and some excerpts from publications which have been arranged into the following folders: Influences: German Art; Influences: Holbein; Influences: J. S. Sargent; Influences: English; Influences: J. M. Whistler; Influences: Various 1) Including reproductions got from (trip to) Russia? 2) Puvis de Chavannes. c 1900-c 1950s.

Box 9 - Facsimiles of paintings by other artists (Dutch, Flemish, Spanish)
Prints and some excerpts from publications which have been arranged into the following folders: Influences: Dutch; Rembrandt; Influences: Flemish; Influences: Frans Hals; Influences: L Melendez; El Greco. c 1900-c 1950s.

Box 10 - Facsimiles of paintings by other artists (Classical Sculpture, Italian)
Photographs and some excerpts from publications which have been arranged into the following folders: Influences: Classical Sculpture; Photographs of Italy and snap shots including people; Influences: Italian Painters. c 1900-c 1950s.

Box 11 - Facsimiles of paintings by other artists (Goya)
Mounted images of paintings, some of the mounts are annotated, also includes some loose postcards and excerpts from publications. The box includes the following folder: Bull Fighting references used by Sir Gerald Kelly. c 1900-c 1950s.

Box 12 - Facsimiles of paitings by other artists (Velasquez)
Contains photographs, excerpts from publications, glass plate negative, and postcards of works by Velasquez. c 1900-c 1950s.

Box 13 - Glass plate negatives
Glass plate negatves and photographs of subjects at the time of their sitting, all the sitters documented are female. c 1930s-c 1950s.

Box 14 - Facsimiles of paintings by other artists (oversize)
Includes prints and photograhs, 'Le Cafe Concert lithographies de H. G. Ibels and H. de Toulouse-Lautrec' and two compilations of 'Great Masters photographs of the finest works of the most famous painters'. c 1900-c 1920s.

Card indexes - Three drawers of card indexes compiled by Sir Gerald Kelly giving details of portraits and landscapes painted, where they were exhibited and in some cases commissioning and ownership details.

One box of spare photographs of portraits by Sir Gerald Kelly arranged in the following folders: Men; Ladies; Lady Kelly.

Administrative / Biographical History

Sir Gerald Festus Kelly (1879-1972) was born in Paddington, London on 9 April 1879. He was the only son of Frederic Festus Kelly and his wife Blanche, and had two sisters. Frederic Kelly was a curate in Paddington but a year after Kelly's birth he became vicar of St Giles, Camberwell. Kelly was a delicate child; he developed an interest in art from being taken to Dulwich College Picture Gallery by his father and began to paint with watercolours. He attended school at Eton but his education was interrupted by illness and he spent a winter in South Africa convalescing. In 1897 he entered Trinity Hall, Cambridge.

In 1901 Kelly moved to Paris, he had decided to become a painter and with the assistance of the art dealer Paul Durand-Ruel he visited Monet, Degas, Rodin and Cezanne and also became friendly with Walter Sickert, John Singer Sargent and William Somerset Maugham. In 1904 he became a member of the Salon d'Automne and in 1908 was elected an associated of the Royal Hibernian Academy. He then spent a year in Burma where he was thrilled by its colour and lifestyle.

Kelly returned to London in 1909, living at his parents' house in Gloucester Place though he did make many study visits to Spain. In the First World War he joined the intelligence department of the Admiralty. In April 1920 he married Lillian Ryan, a model, who Kelly always called Jane – he would paint her throughout their marriage. By this time he was becoming well established as a portrait painter.

He was elected associate of the Royal Academy in 1922 and academician in 1930 and was busily employed during this period. In 1938 he began work on painting the state portraits of King George VI and Queen Elizabeth, during the Second World War he worked on them at Windsor Castle and they were not completed until 1945 when they were displayed at the Royal Academy. Kelly was also knighted in this year and became an honorary surveyor of Dulwich College Picture Gallery, he also became involved in a debate over what he, and many others, considered to be too drastic cleaning of paintings in the National Gallery. Between 1938 and 1943 he was a member of the Royal Fine Arts Commission.

In December 1949 Kelly was elected president of the Royal Academy and devoted most of his time to its loan exhibitions, these included 'Holbein and other Masters' and 'European Masters of the Eighteenth Century'. He also became the star of television programmes related to the exhibitions. Due to the academy's age limit he retired in 1955 and was appointed KCVO. He continued to paint until an unsuccessful eye operation at 90 forced him to give up painting. Over the course of his career he received several honours including honorary degrees of LLD from Cambridge and Trinity College, Dublin in 1955. He died at home on 5 January 1972.

This biographical description is largely based on S. C. Hutchison, 'Kelly, Sir Gerald Festus (1879–1972)', rev. Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004 [, accessed 5 April 2017]

Access Information

Available to view by appointment in the Heinz Archive and Library Public Study Room, to make an appointment contact Archive Reception . Although records are generally available for public consultation, some information in them, such as personal data or information supplied to the Gallery in confidence, may be restricted.

Conditions Governing Use

Personal photography is permitted for research purposes only. Photocopying is not permitted.