John Melville Kelly

View Art by John Melville Kelly


John Melville Kelly arrived in Honolulu in 1923 to take a position for one year with Town and Country Homes, Inc., a real estate development company with the purpose of advertising the beauties of the Islands to prospective residents. The picturesque quality of the Hawaiian landscape, the grace and quiet charm of the Hawaiian people, and the interesting racial mixtures found here wove their spell in the heart and soul of this sensitive artist. The one year lengthened into thirty years. During this time he became one of Hawaii's most constant and devoted exponents. Kelly spent his first twenty years on an Arizona cattle ranch. He received formal art training at the Mark Hopkins School of Art. Fourteen years as staff artist on the San Francisco Examiner and the exciting life of the Telegraph Hill art colony gave him a broad palate of experience. But it was his warm, friendly Irish sense of humor that seasoned his art with these rare qualities of simplicity and sincerity. It was during the years when he headed the art department of the Honolulu Star-Bulletin that he first experimented with the process of making etchings from copper plates. For a long time he was a "Sunday etcher," and it was not until 1932 that he began to devote his entire energies to this most difficult media. He is remembered for his color prints which were made directly from copper plates. In them are the brilliant colors of the tropical flowers and leaves of the Islands and the warm skin tones of the suntanned Hawaiians. In his final years his palate and style were influenced by the ancient frescoes of the Orient. With the sensitivity of an artist who developed a rare appreciation for the qualities of Oriental art he captured its essence in his prints. Mr. Kelly's work exhibited at the Kleemann Galleries and The English Bookshop in New York. His prints are in collections owned by the National Gallery in Washington, D.C., The Fogg Museum at Harvard, The New York Public Library, The Honolulu Academy of Arts, several collections in France and England. Of the private collections that include his prints, some of the best known are those of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Doris Duke Cromwell, Mrs. Lawrence Tibbett, Lessing J. Rosenwald, and Barbara Hutton. We are very proud to be able to offer to you, the works of one of Hawaii's truly great artists, Mr. John Melville Kelly.