signed in pencil, Frances Kelly Art Gallery collection pre-1974

Frances J. Kelly (1908–2002)
Watercolour, 41.8 x 59.5
NGI; Ulster Museum; The United Nations Training School; Áras an Uachtaráin; Leinster House; TCD; Highlanes
Irish Women Artists: From the Eighteenth Century to the Present Day, Dublin 1987, pp 35, 37, 39, 170; Thomas MacGreevy, ‘Varied Exhibition; the art of Frances Kelly’ The Irish Times. 10/12/1941; Denise Ferran, Highlanes Gallery; Irish Art from Nathaniel Hone to Nano Reid, 2006, pp 9, 21, 81
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Born in County Louth, Frances Kelly studied at the Metropolitan school of Art in Dublin and in Paris (1932–35), under the Cubist painter Léopold Survage. She exhibited at the RHA for the first time in 1929 and continued to show there until the late 1930s. Kelly was the first holder of the RDS’s Henry Higgins travelling scholarship in 1932 and a prominent member of the Dublin Painters Society from the 1940s. She showed her work with the RHA, the Dublin Painters Society, the Oireachtas and the Irish Exhibition of Living Art and held four solo shows at the Dawson gallery.Kelly painted landscapes, portraits, still life and religious subjects, including a mural, The Legend of St. Columcille, at Tullamore Hospital. Other mural paintings, now lost to posterity, were in the Russell Hotel, Dublin which was demolished some years ago and, in collaboration with Nano Reid, a set of 12 murals, The Four Provinces, for the Bakers’ & Confectioners’ & Workers’ Amalgamated Union. Thomas MacGreevy, Director of the NGI (1950–63), reviewing an exhibition of her work at the Dublin Painters Gallery in 1941, admired her ‘lightness of touch’ and ‘swift brushwork’ and remarked that ‘even in the sketchiest of her pictures she has style’ (MacGreevy, 1941). Portrait commissions included Seán T. O’Kelly, President of Ireland, Máire Mac Entee and Frank O’Connor. Her career accommodated itself around frequent upheavals associated with the diplomatic career of her husband, Frederick Boland. Sadly, given the quality of her work, she rarely exhibited after 1950, when he became the first Irish ambassador to the United Kingdom (1950), and to the United Nations (1956), later becoming President of the United Nations General Assembly.Her work was included in ‘Irish Women Artists: From the Eighteenth Century to the Present Day’, exhibition at the NGI, the Hugh Lane Gallery and the Douglas Hyde Gallery, Dublin 1987 and in ‘A celebration of Irish Art and Modernism’ (Adam’s, 2011). One of her children was the celebrated poet Eavan Boland (1944–2020).Frances Kelly clearly enjoyed the bright morning in Connemara. The painting is filled with her typical sense of harmony, brisk brushwork and strong feeling for light, air and space. A mildly Cubist touch recalls her continental training and there is no trace here of Sean Keating’s west of Ireland realism or of Paul Henry’s atmosphere-laden idealism. Instead, Kelly’s Connemara is a terrain of watery inlets and stone walls that twist and wind playfully around the little cottages. Hers is a bird’s eye view, but a very positive one.