Sir Gerald Festus Kelly (1879-1972):
Ma Si Gyaw, pose III, circa 1909
Framed (ref: 74)
Inscribed with title on the canvas return (on three sides)
Oil on canvas, squared in pencil and chalk, 67 x 36 in. (170.2 x 91.5 cm.)
Provenance: The artist John Napper, Kelly's studio assistant
'I had seen some snapshots of Burmese dancers, and so, with the sublime spontaneous stupidity of youth, I just went off to Burma. How lucky, how wonderfully lucky, I was.' (Sir Gerald Kelly, Exhibition of Burmese Paintings, 1962, Preface).
'Kelly worked continually in the last months of 1908 and early months of 1909, painting small landscapes and studies of Burmese girls, ... but the Burmese picture most likely to be remembered is one of the dancer Ma Si Gyaw, begun at Mandalay in 1909 and presented by Francis Howard to the Tate in 1914.' (Derek Hudson, For Love of Painting, The Life of Sir Gerald Kelly, 1975, p. 32.) Kelly's paintings of Oriental dancers soon became familiar to the public through popular prints - at one time amongst the most popular reproductions in Britain. Maugham wrote enthusiastically of the paintings: 'his Burmese dancers ... have a strange impenetrability, their gestures are enigmatic and yet significant, they are charming, and yet there is something curiously hieratic in their manner; with a sure instinct, and with a more definite feeling for decoration than is possible in a portrait, Mr Kelly has given us the character of the East as we of our generation see it,' (Somerset Maugham, 'A Student of Character', International Studio, December 1914). Kelly painted Ma Si Gyaw about thirty-six times. This painting remained in his studio until it was inherited by the painter John Napper, Kelly's studio assistant.