Tuesday, 29 March 2011
Found in a Shoebox
It was on top of the wardrobe in the spare room. It was covered in dust. The artist Percy Kelly had given it to her for safe keeping in 1983. He died alone in Norfolk ten years later. She had forgotten about it until I turned up asking questions because I was writing his biography.
The lid was removed in a cloud of dust to reveal shopping lists, addresses, recipes for marmalade and receipts for building materials - and an exquisite collection of small paintings hiding among the other things; The colours are bright and fresh and the subjects are landscapes of Cumbria where he lived for 50 years of his life, Wales, Brittany, Cornwall and Norfolk.
This is real treasure and forms part of a new exhibition opening at the gallery on Friday 1st April called Fifty Little Gems. They are all shown on the web site. E-mail us for a price list.
This is not my first find in my last few months of research but it is the biggest and most surprising (so far!). Percy lost a lot of his precious work in his first divorce in 1970 so when he was going through his second divorce in 1983 he was paranoid about losing any more.
He parcelled up small collections and gave them to friends to keep for him and promptly forgot about some of them - and so did the friends. He was poor and ill and suffering from depression. He gave a similar box to his elder sister Sally who died in Workington just before he did in 1993 but this has never been found. It was probably destroyed in the house clearance.
Added together with my other recent finds I realised I had more than 50 of these little gems which would make a superb exhibition. There is a 50 page catalogue available in which each is illustrated. (£10)
We are having an evening viewing on Thursday 31st March 6.00 - 8.00 to which you are invited. The exhibition opens to the public at 10.30 next day - Friday 1st April. Nothing will be sold before then.
To make it fair we will accept sales by e mail and telephone as well as personal callers. We know there are collectors coming from Moscow, Norway, Edinburgh and London. Kelly has now grown way beyond his native Cumbria. After his exhibitions in London as well as at Castlegate House his reputation is now firmly set as a 20th Century British artist of some importance.
Maybe there are more little gems waiting to be discovered.
The biography will be published towards the end of this year - unless I find a lot more material, letters and people who knew him. Each discovery leads on to more. There is no end to this genius of an artist.
Come and see this breathtaking exhibition. Open Fridays, Saturdays and Mondays 10.30 - 5.00