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 John Melville Kelly  (1879 - 1962)

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Lived/Active: Hawaii/California      Known for: figure-female, illustrator, etcher

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Ad Code: 3
AskART Artist
from Auction House Records.
Hawaiian Fisherman
Artwork images are copyright of the artist or assignee
This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Born in Oakland, CA on Nov. 2, 1879. Kelly began his art studies locally at the Mark Hopkins Institute and Partington Art School. By 1903 he was a staff artist for the San Francisco Examiner, a position he held for 14 years. He further studied under Spencer Macky and Frank Van Sloun at the CSFA. He was active in the San Francisco Bay area until 1923 when he settled in Honolulu. There he continued as head of the art department for the Star Bulletin. Kelly died in Honolulu on Sept. 9, 1962. His etchings are mostly Polynesian subjects. Member: Calif. Society of Etchers; Honolulu PM; Prairie PM; Chicago Society of Etchers. Exh: SF Newspaper Artists, 1903; Int'l PM (LA), 1934; Calif. PM, 1936; Calif. Society of Etchers, 1937 (1st prize). In: Fogg Museum (Harvard); NMAA; NY Public Library.
Edan Hughes, "Artists in California, 1786-1940"
Ferdinand Perret Files; Who's Who in American Art 1936-62; California State Library (Sacramento); Honolulu Star Bulletin, 9-10-1962 (obituary).
Nearly 20,000 biographies can be found in Artists in California 1786-1940 by Edan Hughes and is available for sale ($150). For a full book description and order information please click here.

Biography from Douglas Frazer Fine Art, Ltd.:
John Melville Kelly was born in Oakland, California in 1879*, and had a long and varied career there until moving to Hawaii, where he achieved fame as an artist.

Kelly worked for many years as an illustrator for the San Francisco Examiner, and had even been a prizefighter, before he and his artist wife, Katherine, went to Hawaii in 1923. Their plan was to stay a year, working for an advertising agency creating material to promote tourism. They fell in love with the islands and the people and stayed permanently.

Kelly’s "ravishing depictions of Polynesians" was, in fact, what distinguished him from other artists in Hawaii at the time. He produced etchings and aquatints, primarily of human figures, though he occasionally did landscapes as well. He authored and illustrated Etchings and Drawings of Hawaiians in 1943, and The Hula as Seen in Hawaii in 1955. Kelly died in Honolulu in 1962.

*Some sources state birthplace and date as Phoenix, Arizona and 1878.
Sources include: WWAA; Forbes: Encounters With Paradise.

By Sarah Nelson

** If you discover credit omissions or have additional information to add, please let us know at

John Kelly is also mentioned in these AskART essays:
Artists who painted Hawaii

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