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

21st March 2013

THE STORY BEHIND THE PICTURE

On Monday a large box of Percy Kelly archival material landed in The Pink Egg. There were sketches, letters and first pulls of lithographs with notes he'd made written on them. They belonged to his second long suffering wife Chris, who died over a year ago. She kept them all intact for thirty years. It is invaluable in giving us clues as to how he worked. The sketches often referred to paintings I'd handled in the past twenty years and some give a clue to the title.

Chris's husband and a friend and I spent several happy hours rifling through it. It was totally absorbing. There were cuttings from William Hickey and Katharine Whitehorn mentioning PK. They too, as leading columnists of their day recognised the importance of this man. There were letters from friends, supporters, admirers and important people.

I have to confess though that I bought just one thing for my extensive PK collection - and it wasn't in the box but it took my eye at once. It is something odd and of little value that gave me one of those 'must have' moments. It is a hand made papier mache Kelly plate though as a plate it is not fit for purpose. It is pure Alfred Wallis. It is magnificent. It is signed Roberta ( his female name) and dated 1983 on the back in gold felt pen. However in tiny writing just underneath the sailing ship at the front there is a date - Christmas Day 1973.

It is interesting to discover how many artists have made and dated works on Christmas Day presumably divorcing themselves from the pressures of conforming to Christmas. Frank Auerbach famously only takes one day off each year - and it isn't Christmas Day.

We have a lovely painting by Keith Vaughan of a man holding a shirt dated Christmas Day 1945. Was the shirt a Christmas present I wonder? As the figure has no trousers on it might have been more appropriate to give him some rather than the shirt! This painting was purchased by Mr and Mrs Peter Bowles (of To The Manor Born fame) and then by Michael and I. The picture story is building. Some archivist in the future will be piecing it together in a dusty basement trying to work out who these people who owned it were.

It is fascinating to trace the progress of a painting and unravel the story. The story behind my PK plate is complex and will be part of yet another story which I am about to write - one that will continue long after my day.

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