Felix Kelly was a New Zealand-born graphic designer, painter, stage designer, interior designer, and illustrator who lived the majority of his life in the United Kingdom. He sometimes signed his illustration and cartoon work Fix.
Handsome and charming, Kelly was popular socially and spent much of his time like a latter-day Augustus Hare, staying at the grander country houses.
Kelly embellished or redesigned many of these houses for friends and clients. At Castle Howard he designed the ‘Kelly car’, a little fairground-style train for conveying visitors round the grounds. At Henbury Hall he gothicised ‘the Cave’ for Sebastian de Ferranti and played a key role in the design of the new Villa Rotunda built there in 1985.
At Cornhill-on-Tweed, Kelly designed a Gothic dowerhouse for Sir Michael Blake. His main work though, was the remodeling of Highgrove in Gloucestershire for the Prince of Wales. He refaced the gawky Victorianised facades and gave them new plastered and pedimented frontispieces in the manner of Francis Keck, successfully returning the house to a Georgian character.
His other decorative work ranged from murals in a number of Union Castle and Cunard liners to the interior of the new Royal palace for the King of Nepal in Kathmandu. Kelly also designed for the stage, including the sets of A day by the Sea at the Haymarket, Lennox Berkeley’s opera Nelson at Sadlers’ Wells, The Merchant of Venice at the Old Vic and Enid Bagnold’s The Last Joke at the Phoenix.
All Felix Kelly’s paintings were meticulously executed, with precisely realised architecture set against misty landscapes of drooping ivy-swathed trees or craggy peaks. In the foreground might be steam trains, canal barges – or a red-and-white striped deckchair.
‘Oldany House Overlooking the River Alde Near Aldeburgh, Suffolk’ by Felix Kelly on display at Jonathan Grant Gallery. For more information on about Felix Kelly’s paintings contact the Gallery.