Percy Kelly was born in Workington in 1918. He worked for the Post Office between 1932 and 1958 in Workington, Kendal and Great Broughton, except for a period during and just after the Second World War.
While living at Great Broughton, he was able to spend more time on his painting and, as a result of increasing recognition, was elected to the Lake Artists' Society.in 1955.
In 1958, Kelly moved to Allonby, where he lived until 1970. He studied drawing and lithography at Carlisle College of Art between 1961 and 1965, graduating with an increasing reputation. Sir Nicholas Sekers, owner of Hensingham Silk Mill, became a patron, commissioning and purchasing some of Kelly's work. Sekers also introduced Kelly to others in the art world and arranged exhibitions of his work.
He became friendly with the Millom poet Norman Nicholson, who introduced him to Helen Sutherland, a patron of the arts who lived at Ullswater. During this time he also met L.S. Lowry and the Aspatria artist, Sheila Fell.
During the 1960's and early 1970's, Percy Kelly completed some of his best and largest paintings, which were often of Maryport, Whitehaven and the communities between. This picture of Maryport Harbour dates from 1965.
From 1971 to 1973, he lived on the Levens Hall Estate in South Cumbria, before moving to St. David's in Pembrokeshire until 1980, then to Rockland St Peter in Norfolk, where he died in 1993.
After leaving Cumbria, he continued to paint pictures of the towns, villages and fells of county, as well as scenes from Pembrokeshire, Cornwall and Norfolk. For many years he rarely showed any of his work and it was not until after his death that his reputation grew.
Kelly painted in a variety of media, including charcoal, which he used to great effect. He also illustrated letters and envelopes in correspondence with friends. His output was prolific and his pictures have become much sought after, especially by those who love the Lake District and the towns and villages of the west coast of Cumbria.
The cost of conservation of “Maryport Harbour” by Percy Kelly has been borne jointly by a private donation and Allerdale Borough Council.
Leaflet design by Leigh Kelly. Copyrigtht Percy Kelly Estate