KELLY, ROBERT GEORGE

(b. 1822, d. 1910)

Painter

From A Dictionary of Irish Artists 1913

Was born in Dublin on 22nd January, 1822, the son of Commander Richard Nugent Kelly, R.N., and Eliza, second daughter of Joseph Stringer of Dublin. He was educated at a private school at Stranraer, and made his art studies in the schools of the Royal Dublin Society and the Royal Hibernian Academy. He began to exhibit in the Academy in 1884, and a "Portrait of his Mother" shown in 1847 attracted attention as the work of a young artist of promise. He contributed regularly for several years to the Hibernian Academy exhibitions, painting portraits, subject pictures and landscapes. An early work by him, "Inspiration," showing the interior of the Academy with a portrait of himself at his easel, is in the possession of his son. In his early days he painted much in Scotland, chiefly in Galloway, and did a number of portraits of Lord Galloway and members of his family as well as of other local personages. In 1853 he left Dublin and settled at first in Manchester and afterwards in 1858 in Birkenhead, where most of his active life was spent.

At Birkenhead he was largely occupied in teaching, and was art master and one of the managers of the School of Art there. He continued to contribute regularly to the Royal Hibernian Academy. A large picture, "The Last Man," exhibited in 1878, attracted some attention at the time, and a later important picture was his "Elijah running before the Chariot of Ahab." He was an occasional exhibitor in the Royal Academy between 1856 and 1888, and also contributed to the British Institution in 1853, 1856 and 1859. A picture exhibited there in 1853, "An Ejectment in Ireland," also called "A Tear and a Prayer for Erin," was much criticized as a political picture, which the artist never intended it to be, and was actually discussed in the House of Commons. About 1894 Kelly relinquished the active practice of his art, and for the remainder of his life lived quietly at Hollywell House, Parkgate, Chester, until his death at the age of 88, on the 9th May, 1910. By his wife Mary, daughter of Peter Walker, of Stranraer, he had a family of four sons and seven daughters. Of these, R. Talbot Kelly, R.I., is the well-known artist and writer upon Egyptian subjects.

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