Sir Gerald Kelly was born in London in 1879 and later attended Eton College and Trinity Hall, Cambridge. He lived in Paris where he studied art and also frequently travelled to such exotic locales as Burma and South Africa, as well as Spain and America.
In 1920 Kelly married Lilian Ryan, who sat for a series of portraits exhibited under the title Jane. Other notable sitters were Ralph Vaugh Williams, T.S. Elliot and his close friend Somerset Maughm. Kelly painted Maughm 18 times and in return was often represented in his friend’s work such as Of Human Bondage, Cakes and Ale and His Excellency, under various names.
Kelly was elected to the Royal Academy in 1930 and served as its keeper from 1943-45 and president from 1949-54. He was a favourite painter of the Royal Family and was knighted in 1945. He was also a member of the Royal Fine Arts Commission from 1938-43 and in 1950 was elected to the National Academy of Design as an Honorary Corresponding Academician. His work is also represented in many important public collections, including the Tate Gallery.