Elizabeth Kelly

Aotearoa New Zealand, b.1877, d.1946

Margaret

  • Purchased 1951
  • Oil on canvas
  • 895 x 692mm
  • 69/91
  • c. 1936

Born in Christchurch and trained at the Canterbury College School of Art from 1891–99, Elizabeth Kelly was the leading local portrait painter of her generation. She frequently exhibited her works overseas to considerable recognition and acclaim. In the 1930s her portraits won medals and awards at the Royal Academy in London and at the Paris Salon, and they were shown widely in England, Scotland, Paris and New York.

This portrait, one of Kelly’s typical 'society' portraits of fashionable young women, was shown in London in 1937 and 1939. The subject is Margaret Hatherley, who modelled several times for Kelly after being ‘spotted’ working in a Christchurch department store. Depicted with fishing tackle bag and rod, and with a tent as backdrop, this elegant young woman is presented here to suggest the pursuits of the English leisured classes.

In 1938 Kelly became the first New Zealand woman to receive the CBE (Commander of the British Empire) award for her services to art. Margaret is an excellent example of Kelly’s academic portrait style, and carries a sense of assurance and sophistication that is rarely seen in New Zealand portraiture.

earlier labels about this work
  • Born in Christchurch and trained at the Canterbury College School of Art 1891 - 99, Elizabeth Kelly was the pre-eminent portrait painter of her generation whose works were exhibited overseas to considerable acclaim and recognition. In the 1930s Elizabeth Kelly's portraits frequently won medals and awards at the Royal Academy in London and at the Paris Salon, and were exhibited widely in England, in Scotland, Paris and New York.

    This is one of her typical 'society' portraits featuring fashionable young women. The subject is Margaret Hatherely who was the model for several studies. The portrait conveys an air of grace and elegance within an extremely successful composition along traditional and academic lines. The clear overall lighting captures the skin tones which are well contrasted with the free brushwork on the dress and the background. The fishing bag and the tent used as a backdrop suggest the outdoor interests of the model.

    In 1938 Elizabeth Kelly was the first New Zealand woman to be given the CBE (Commander of the British Empire) award for her services to art. Margaret was exhibited at the Canterbury Society of Arts exhibition in 1942 and is an excellent example of the academic portrait style Kelly handled with a refined grace elegance rarely seen in New Zealand portraiture. (2003 label)

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