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

14th March 2016

NOW FOR THE GOOD NEWS

The screenprint above, printed directly on to rough hessian, was made by Percy Kelly when he was a mature student at Carlisle College of Art 1961 – 1965. At that time the college was based in Tullie House in Castle Street close to Carlisle Cathedral.  That building now has a modern extension and is the County’s Museum and Art Gallery.  I am curating a Percy Kelly Retrospective there in the autumn of 2017.  It is time to see the full extent of Kelly’s talent and what could be better  than to see it in the place where some of it originated. I have  explored other venues who were keen to have it but this is the most appropriate by far.

When the contents of PK’s  cottage in Norfolk came back to Cumbria after his death aged 75 in 1993 knowing his retentive habits and his downright refusal to sell any work, I thought the full-to-overflowing van was probably most of his life’s output as it spanned  more than 50 years. Brian his son and heir instructed me to sell everything on his behalf.  I worked  hard to establish PK as an important Cumbrian artist not realising that his name would spread far and wide, that several more substantial collections of his work would come to light and he would attract international attention resulting in 2 exhibitions in London’s Cork Street.

So the bulk of his work is now scattered across the UK and some abroad. I have never seen it all together. Luckily I kept a visual record of every piece that has passed through my hands and have been busy establishing the whereabouts of choice pieces to borrow back for the exhibition. Of course I too have an extensive personal collection because I could never resist buying from each exhibition. So the retrospective will for the first time have the full range of his work for us all to see; sketch books dating from WW2, early drawings, fabrics, artefacts,  letters, prints  and paintings and drawings from the 40s onwards to his death. He drew every day even in hospital. It will be a celebration of his life in art in his centenary year.

The Words by the Water festival ended yesterday.  It has been a stimulating 10 days increasing my speed reading exponentially. Keswick takes on a surreal air when you are liable to bump into Joan Bakewell in Boots or, like me, nearly run over Howard Jacobson as he strode into town on the A591, his back to oncoming traffic, almost invisible in a long black overcoat and trousers. That would have made the headlines wouldn’t it – and not just in the Keswick Reminder?

CORRECTION      I made a mistake with dates in my last newsletter. My talk at the wonderful little Heron Theatre at Beetham near Kendal  is on Friday 15th April at 7.30. (£5 ticket).  Behind the scenes at the Gallery,  will be about some of the strange people who popped up there, and my weird adventures tracking down artists and securing exhibitions. It will be longer and different from the talk I gave at Words by the Water last Sunday.

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