Born in Auckland, New Zealand Felix Kelly was initially home-schooled for the better part of his youth before beginning his artistic education in earnest at King’s College, Auckland. He trained as a graphic designer and illustrator, and early in his career an aptitude for cartoon drawing was evident. In 1935 Kelly relocated to England, and would subsequently never return to his native New Zealand. The artist soon found work as a graphic designer at Lintas, the advertising division of consumer goods company Unilever, but the onset of the Second World War halted his professional career as an artist. During the War Kelly served in the Royal Air Force, where he rose to the rank of navigating officer, before illness ended his active service in 1943. The artist subsequently focused his attention to painting full time.
Heavily influenced by the Surrealist movement, Kelly held his first solo exhibition at the Lefevre Gallery, London in 1943 where his work caught the attention of art critic Herbert Read who later commissioned the artist to illustrate an edition of his short novel ‘The Green Child’. Kelly’s career flourished, and the artist was soon receiving commissions for paintings, murals and illustrations. His charm and wit allowed the artist access to the grandest houses in England and the artist was universally popular among his clients. In 1984 George Howard commissioned Kelly to produce four large murals for the Garden Hall at Castle Howard in Yorkshire. The Prince of Wales invited Kelly to produce an artist’s impression of an improved design of Highgrove House in Gloucestershire, which later inspired the remodelling of the entire property. The artist’s passion for art was reflected in his personal life as well as in his accomplished professional work, and Kelly’s apartment was photographed for numerous magazine publications for its beautiful interior and collection of art. The artist died in 1994 after a battle with Alzheimer’s disease.