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Graphic: An Encyclopaedia of New Zealand 1966.


This information was published in 1966 in An Encyclopaedia of New Zealand, edited by A. H. McLintock. It has not been corrected and will not be updated.

Up-to-date information can be found elsewhere in Te Ara.


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KELLY, Annie Elizabeth, C.B.E., and KELLY, Cecil Fletcher

(1877–1946) and (1878–1954).


A new biography of Kelly, Annie Elizabeth appears in the Dictionary of New Zealand Biography on this site.

Elizabeth Kelly, eldest daughter of Thomas G. Abbott, who came from Torquay, England, was born at Knights Town, Christchurch, on 12 April 1877 and received her early education privately before taking her Diploma of Fine Arts at the Canterbury College School of Fine Arts. In 1908 she married Cecil Fletcher Kelly, son of G. Kelly. Cecil Kelly was born in St. Albans, Christchurch, on 16 June 1878 and took his D.F.A. at Canterbury College School of Fine Arts. Their painting partnership was centred in Christchurch where they lived at 245 Montreal Street. Both artists were for a time private pupils of Van der Velden, and later they travelled in England and France, exhibiting in many galleries overseas.

Elizabeth Kelly was first represented at the Royal Academy in 1931 and later in 1934 and 1936. Her greatest success was in the Paris Salon, where in 1932 her portrait won honourable mention, and in 1934 for her “Miss Edith May” she received the silver medal of the Sociétié des Artists Français. In 1935 she held one-man shows, first at the Lincoln Art Galleries and, later, in the Walker Galleries, London. She also exhibited at the Royal Society of Arts, the Royal Society of Portrait Painters, the Royal West of England Academy, the Royal Cambrian Academy, the Royal Institute of Oil Painters, the London Portrait Society, the Royal Scottish Academy, and the Birmingham Art Gallery. She was awarded the C.B.E. in 1938. Cecil Kelly was represented by a landscape in the Paris Salon of 1934 and the Royal Academy, London, in 1936. He also exhibited at the Royal Scottish Academy, the Walker Galleries, London, the Royal Cambrian Academy, and the Birmingham Art Gallery.

Both artists were represented in the Empire Art Exhibition and the Centennial Exhibition of New Zealand Art in 1940. They also exhibited widely in local exhibitions in New Zealand and Australia, and were particularly active in the Canterbury Society of Arts, being members of the council. Cecil Kelly was artist instructor on the staff of Canterbury College School of Fine Arts.

Elizabeth Kelly died on 4 October 1946, survived by her husband who died on 11 February 1954. They had no children.

Having been trained under Elliot at the Canterbury College School of Fine Arts, both artists started off with a strongly academic style which was modified by the result of their overseas experience. Elizabeth Kelly was primarily a portrait painter in oils, painting many distinguished people in New Zealand and England. Her portraits were always handled with care and sympathy. She developed a style that was completely satisfying to herself and was content to adhere to it, being never enthusiastic about modern movements in art. An excellent colourist, her landscapes were more interesting from the point of view of colour than form, but nevertheless showed considerable skill.

Cecil Kelly, an accomplished draughtsman, specialised in landscapes in oil. From being low in tone, his colour was influenced by the work he saw overseas, and gained a new vitality and brilliance. His brushwork became stronger and more decisive, and much of his later landscapes were broadly handled.

Cecil and Elizabeth Kelly were faithful in their landscapes to the same territory, in the main the environs of Lyttelton Harbour and the Canterbury foothills of the Southern Alps. Both artists are represented in the National Art Gallery and in the galleries at Christchurch and Dunedin. Elizabeth Kelly is also represented in the Scottish National Portrait Gallery, Edinburgh.

by Thomas Esplin, D.A.(EDIN.), Senior Lecturer, Faculty of Home Science, University of Otago.

  • Art in N.Z., 1936–37
  • Catalogue of Centennial Exhibition, 1940.


Thomas Esplin, D.A.(EDIN.), Senior Lecturer, Faculty of Home Science, University of Otago.