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Epithet: 20th Century Artist (1946-)

Biography: Edward Kelly was born in Liverpool, initially training at the Liverpool College of Art, with his work first being exhibited when he was 12 years old, which resulted in the newspaper headline ‘Bootle Boy Hung’ but more importantly prize money to spend on new brushes and paints. Kelly has had an extensive career. Over the years, he has been inspired by a variety of artists ranging from the 15th century Italian artist Piero Della Francesca to 20th century Russian-American artist, Mark Rothko.

Following in the tradition of many Manx artists, Edward Kelly has combined a career as a working artist together with teaching, twenty-five years lecturing in painting and inspiring the next generation, including the Manx artist, Paul Ford, at the Chelsea College of Art. He resigned his teaching post in 1996 to concentrate on his studio work.

Kelly’s group of work called ‘Island Paintings’ was exhibited in the House of Manannan, 2012. It had never been exhibited before or indeed seen as a totality by the artist, being too large for his studio. It is a vast polyptych on twenty-six panels called Moments, an epic island poem derived from images that have haunted him for thirty years. As well as the ‘Island Paintings’ exhibition at the House of Manannan, there was a second display of Edward Kelly’s work at the Manx Museum, on the singular theme of Seascapes placed in the context of other seascapes by artists represented in the National Art Collection. ‘Context is all important in painting,’ said Kelly.

Edward Kelly has travelled extensively, drawing inspiration and making work from a variety of cultural sources notably Greek and Egyptian. A very different history and a different spirit of place is represented in his work ‘Herefordshire’ with a large, monumental series of paintings celebrating the life and ministry of the 6th century saint, St Dubricius installed in an important pilgrimage site, recently dedicated by the Bishop of Hereford.


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