Sir Gerald Festus Kelly RA, KCVO, PRA (British, 1879-1972) A Glass of Sherry in the Studio, Portrait of W. Somerset Maugham 72 x 81.4 cm. (28 3/8 x 32 in.) (Painted 1932-7)

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Lot 5* AR
Sir Gerald Festus Kelly RA, KCVO, PRA
(British, 1879-1972)
A Glass of Sherry in the Studio, Portrait of W. Somerset Maugham 72 x 81.4 cm. (28 3/8 x 32 in.)

Sold for £ 94,000 (US$ 131,951) inc. premium
Sir Gerald Festus Kelly RA, KCVO, PRA (British, 1879-1972)
A Glass of Sherry in the Studio, Portrait of W. Somerset Maugham
oil on canvas laid on board
72 x 81.4 cm. (28 3/8 x 32 in.)
Painted 1932-7

Footnotes

  • Provenance
    The Artist (until 1952), from whom acquired by
    Bertram E. Alanson (1877-1958), San Francisco
    Private Collection, U.S.A.

    Exhibited
    London, Royal Academy, Summer Exhibition, 1 May-7 August 1933, cat.no.209 (as A Glass of Sherry in the Studio (W.S.M.))
    London, Royal Academy, Summer Exhibition, 1 May-7 August 1943, cat.no.39 (as W.S.M.: A Glass of Sherry in the Studio. (2nd. Version))
    Stanford, Albert M. Bender Room, Stanford University Library, A Comprehensive Exhibition of the Writings of W. Somerset Maugham Drawn from Various Collections and Private Collections, 25 May-1 August 1958, section III, item A

    Following graduation from Eton College and Trinity Hall, Cambridge, Gerald Festus Kelly embarked on an artistic career without any formal training. In 1901 he moved to Paris to broaden his education. There he made the acquaintance of Degas, Sickert and Sargent. However, it was another Irishman who he met in the city, the brash young novelist-playwright William Somerset Maugham, who would become Kelly's most enduring friend until the writer's death in 1965.

    Over the years the two men supported each other in various ways. In 1908 Maugham helped to fund Kelly's career-changing first trip to Mandalay, as a cure to get over an unhappy love affair. Thereafter Maugham used the artist as the basis for characters in several novels, such as Frederick Lewson in Of Human Bondage (1915) and Lionel Hillier in Cakes and Ale (1929-30), and finally he dedicated Ashenden (1927) to the artist. Kelly returned the favour, painting Maugham on roughly eighteen occasions including in A Jester (1911, Tate Gallery, London) considered one of the Artist's finest portraits.

    A Glass of Sherry was likely intended by Kelly to be both sequel and companion to The Jester. Indeed, the artist elected to show both portraits at the Royal Academy's 1933 summer exhibition, leading the critic Frank Rutter to declare that 'Mr. Kelly has definitely established himself as the premier portrait-painter of the year' (Sunday Times, 30 April 1933, p.12).

    Following this outing the picture remained in the Artist's possession. In 1937 Kelly reworked the canvas, replacing a decanter positioned on the table to the left with two books and moving the grey bowl a touch to the right. He added a second canvas facing the wall behind the portrait of Princess Saw Ohn Yung and introduced a tube of paint on the easel. Kelly later subtly adjusted the sitter's expression, turning the corners of the mouth upward into a self-confident half smile and shifting his gaze so that he addressed the viewer directly. Pleased with the results, and perhaps capitalising on his position as President to circumvent the Academy's rule that no work should be exhibited twice, the picture was included in the Summer Exhibition for a second time in 1943.

    It is following this outing that the work was sold by Kelly to Maugham's closest American friend, Bertram E. Alanson. Alanson was a stockbroker who later became head of the San Francisco Stock Exchange. As well as being entrusted by Maugham with his finances, Alanson amassed one of the most important collections of the author's writings ever assembled, most of which he later bequeathed to Stanford University. Following Alanson's death in 1958, the work's whereabouts were untraced until its recent rediscovery. A welcome re-addition to the canon of 20th Century portraiture, A Glass of Sherry stands as a testament to the dear friendship between these two highly celebrated men.
Contacts
Sir Gerald Festus Kelly RA, KCVO, PRA (British, 1879-1972) A Glass of Sherry in the Studio, Portrait of W. Somerset Maugham 72 x 81.4 cm. (28 3/8 x 32 in.) (Painted 1932-7)
Sir Gerald Festus Kelly RA, KCVO, PRA (British, 1879-1972) A Glass of Sherry in the Studio, Portrait of W. Somerset Maugham 72 x 81.4 cm. (28 3/8 x 32 in.) (Painted 1932-7)
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