Chris Wadsworth
Percy Kelly - Looking East to the Ennerdale Fells
Writer and Art Consultant

10th December 2012



The Spectator 24th November carried a splendid 2 page article about Percy Kelly by their art critic Andrew Lambirth.  Lambirth has long been an admirer of Kelly's work and writes about the rising reputation of the eccentric and chaotic Cumbrian artist Percy Kelly under the heading Lonely Lakelander.


While welcoming such a great article which once again serves to raise Kelly's profile there was a sad omission. Joan David who did so much to help Percy in the last ten years of his life doesn't get the credit she deserves. She was introduced to Kelly in 1983 by Mary Burkett then director of Abbot Hall just before his second wife walked out on him. A correspondence began between Joan and Percy which lasted ten years and amounted to well over 1000 letters - some of them over 30 pages long. It was Joan who helped him get a supplementary pension, put him in touch with a solicitor who would change his name by deed poll to Roberta Penelope, sent him food and stamps and persuaded him to have an exhibition in 1983 - the last before his death - to raise the alimony for his divorce. This was in a private house in Troutbeck. Joan dealt with his vaccilations and hesitations and got everything framed and hung as well as transporting him and hosting him for his last visit to Cumbria. It was not easy especially as she had never done anything remotely like it before - she was a retired scientist.


It was Joan who put me in touch with Kelly in 1987 - my first year at Castlegate. Lambirth got this wrong.  She became a good friend and would often slip me a little painting Percy had sent her on a visit to the gallery. It was Joan who notified me immediately about his death in 1993 and was responsible for introducing Brian his son and heir to me at the gallery. Between us we got the Kelly Collection back to Cumbria. She was tireless in her support for the gallery and gave me a long list of buyers and friends for my first exhibition in May 1994. This is all well documented in The Painted Letters and The man who couldn't stop drawing. I owe so much to Joan and to her family that I must put the record straight.  Andrew Lambirth has apologised for what was a genuine mistake.

* Castlegate House ( has all the books and catalogues pertaining to Kelly in stock. They make good presents. You can buy them there or at bookshops in Cumbria. The gallery also has a new Kelly etching - Farmhouse: St John's in the Vale and all his other 11 etchings in stock. These are exclusive to the gallery this Christmas.

If you live further away or want any of my books posting out as a gift send me the  postal address and I can arrange to send a signed copy post free within the uk.(abroad costs a bit more) Contact me at (

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