Date Posted: 7th March 2015

BOAT AND SUN   oil on floorboard

An oil painting by Percy Kelly is up for auction at Christie's, London on19th March.  Kelly died in 1993 and since his 2 exhibitions at Messums in Cork Street, his work has now begun to trickle through London Auction Houses and is making good prices.
Bridge in Winter was first exhibited in a sell-out show of 23 oil paintings at Castlegate House in 2002 on behalf of Kelly's first wife Audrey who discovered them while clearing out her loft due to a leaking pipe. She had forgotten they were up there. Luckily they were not damaged. Oils by Kelly are rare. He mainly worked in charcoal, gouache and watercolour because, ironically, Audrey hated the smell of oil paint and turps and complained loud and long if he worked with them. It is unsigned but I was happy to provide authentication and provenance as I was present when the collection was found.  (According to the catalogue entry - Christies appear to think I’m a man in the accreditation which is a worry! They will correct it next time!)   Kelly didn’t sign his oils or any paintings where he thought it would detract from the whole. Of course if he didn’t intend letting them go there was no point although in the last decade of his life he spent time going over things from the vast life time collection he had amassed in his cottage in Norfolk signing some pieces randomly for posterity.
When we got all the oils down from the loft they were covered in the accumulated grime of 30 years but I bought one of them from her immediately. I’m looking at it now where it hangs in my writing room. Unlike the others which are painted on hardboard, Boat and sun is painted on a rough floor board. Audrey wanted it framed like the rest but that would have ruined the integrity of what it is. We rarely disagreed but this time she was adamant so I bought it. The full story is in the chapter entitled The Floor Board in Hercules and the Farmer’s Wife.