Date Posted: 17th June 2020

Blencathra Keswick 1942  postmarked Staines.
Blue lane

As lock down slowly eases and some of us stagger blinking into the light, and others to Primark and IKEA, it is hard to readjust to a different world.   I’m not sure I want to venture out of my little bubble where I’ve been so comfortable into a dangerous place. But mine is a privileged position with a nice garden and a national park outside my door, family and friends in Zoom squares regularly joining us round the kitchen table for a glass or two of wine.  Most of us have access to endless entertainment of all kinds at the push of a button, not to mention all the vynils and cds and unread books on the shelves and the latest publications that can be pulled down any time of day or night on kindle. (Maggie O’Farrel’s latest novel  Hamnet landed on my i-pad at 5.00 this morning.)

But there's always a downside. The Rabbits are eating my roses, I have black fly on my broad beans, an army of pheasants are making merry everywhere… and as for my hair …  I’m now sporting a Keith Richards bandana!

Sally my picture framer  is back in business which is good as the popularity of Percy Kelly is as strong as ever. I have been answering queries for the past 4 months from people waiting for the chance to buy. Providing there is no new outbreak of covid19 I will be seeing people and selling Kellys in July. This will be in date order of when people got in touch with their wish lists – you’ve all been very patient.

I’ve just put 3 rare early Kelly paintings in the FOR SALE in the gallery section of the web site. These are very interesting in that they are on decent watercolour paper,  2 of them are dated 1942 and are signed in full.  This was when Kelly aged 24 was on leave from the Royal Signals Regiment.  The Blencathra watercolour is painted on a square of good  card which is postmarked Staines and 1942 at the bottom and the painting of the Ship Hotel Allonby is also 1942 and has a full signature. (this was 16 years before he moved to Allonby and lived at Glen Cottage which is just out of the picture to the right).  If only that level of information had continued it would have made titling and cataloguing so much easier (it has mainly been a question of detective work and it still leaves many with no clues.) I recently discovered a sketch with a hastily scribbled Blencogo in the corner. I’d never been to this tiny Cumbrian hamlet but sent a photo of the painting to a friend who became very excited and  is now threatening me with a walk round his street when I can at last escape.

Having handled well over 90% of Kelly’s  life’s work,  it has been interesting to see his signature change and develop.  The years travelling around painting with Heaton Cooper shows him imitating his style of signature in spaced upright caps which helps to date those. The full name and date in copperplate handwriting  became rarer as the years passed and his resistance to exhibiting and selling his work hardened. Why would he bother if he was painting for himself.. Why did a date or location matter if he knew where it was? He reverted to PK initials only -  with a date occasionally - quite randomly in future years.  The little drawing with a greenhouse at the end of a terrace in the FOR SALE box in the GALLERY section has a drawing of a pot and fruit on the back as well as a perfect full Percy Kelly signature. He often used both sides of the paper which was economical for him but frustrating  now.  I have a small brightly coloured painting of a red door and an apple tree in blossom painted on the back of a lovely painting of Harrington.  In his latter years his signature became very shaky  and he changed the dates on some of the sixties’ works. This was not to confuse art historians but to deter his second wife making alimony claims (which she assured me she had no intention of doing). As his mental and physical health deteriorated so did his grip on such things.

People get worried if there is no signature but, as the programme Fake or Fortune revealed, provenance is the most important factor. A signature can be copied but Percy’s style is unique and I authenticate (on the label on the back) every work with no signature and of course the receipt also reinforces that.

So enjoy browsing the new works. I can’t give framed sizes or prices of the new small pieces until they come back from the framer.  I hope to see some of you in due course. Fingers firmly crossed that there is no 2nd wave of the virus.