John Kelly, Irish painter and printmaker, 1932-2006

Works Self Portraits

In the early summer of 2002, many Dubliners would have been struck by the sight of a large poster for the Royal Hibernian Academy Annual Exhibition featuring a self portrait by John Kelly, a Dubliner himself, who looked down at them benevolently from hoardings in Dart stations and numerous other locations throughout the city.

John produced many self portraits in various media, expressing different aspects of his personality and mood – humorous, reflective, self-critical. He was fascinated by other artists’ self portraits, in particular those by Rembrandt , some of which he incorporated into his graphic works, notably his lithograph “A Letter for Rembrandt”.

One of John’s self portraits, acquired in 1999, can be seen in the National Self Portrait Collection in the University of Limerick. There were 60 self portraits in John’s studio after his death in 2006; many were unsigned, few were dated, the earliest dating back to 1984. In the light of such an impressive body of work, it is perhaps fitting that his last completed works were the series “Drawing s from the Heart Ward”, produced in December 2003, and exhibited at the RHA Annual Exhibition in 2004.