Date Posted: 9th July 2020

Barnard Castle early 1940's
Back in the wardrobe!

I’m in the wardrobe again.  Michael crept up and took a photo through a crack in the door  (pleased I’d had my hair cut.)   Is there nowhere I can go to make another video in peace?

Many  of you liked  the story of the Redpath  painting and have passed the link on so  it’s growing  and fanning out as it gathers momentum - maybe I should make a series – each one the story of a painting I’ve handled.  Of course the most popular request is for one based on a Percy Kelly painting so I’m getting on with that.  I may be in the wardrobe for some time!

I’ve been busy during lock down putting my affairs in order. I don’t think I’m alone in this – tidying up, making inventories and lists just in case the virus gets me.  So I’ve spent time in the loft   (thinks: another good quiet place to escape from the world.)   I found a folder I’d made years ago of interesting but unsaleable pieces.  It’s up there in a large folder named  Kelly Archive and there are many in the lifetime’s work of someone who never threw anything away. There are unfinished works, beautiful things with a big blot in the middle or the ring of a coffee cup,  some stuck together with marmalade or marmite splattered over something lovely. His doodles are spectacular. No wonder he drove his wives crazy. The most frustrating are the 2-sided pieces that have bled through or those that have  a shopping list scribbled in the middle or the telephone number of a mole catcher or builders merchant. The saddest are things on paper so thin that it cockled as soon as the paint landed on it.  Lord  Eccles,  Minister of Arts under Macmillan, was one of the kind  people who tried to help him in many ways. He bought him a ream of top quality Japanese watercolour paper. I know this because his son gave me access to Percy’s letters to his father and  I have seen the illustrated letter of thanks PK wrote. I also saw the paper left in his cottage after his death, the heavy  package totally untouched - still wrapped in the brown paper sheath with the London suppliers label on it.  If only …

So I was engrossed up in the loft for several hours as the archive file gives up so much information.   I have now had time to photograph and record  it all.  Kelly travelled a lot during the war when he was in the Royal Signals Regiment and must have been posted in the northeast at some point during the war – possibly Catterick -  as well as Bath, Aldershot, Kew and much of France.  There are  also some  small sketches of Richmond, Yorkshire in his collection Everything he did at that time was small as he was constantly being ordered to send his paints and pencils home.  He didn’t of course – he couldn’t as his drawing was compulsive – he successfully secreted them in his first aid tin.

 I had forgotten this torn drawing of Barnard Castle (pictured above) which I had consigned to the archive because he had taken a chunk out of it.  It made me smile in the context of recent events. He had a lot of trouble with his eyes during his life which led to him falling in love with the ophthalmic surgeon’s wife in the 60s.  Maybe he’d gone to Barney for an eye test that day in the early 40s and thought it was a sandwich when he stopped for a picnic by the river!  Any other daft theories?  Hope it makes you smile too.