20th Century British & Contemporary Art
Castlegate House Gallery

Percy Kelly (Etchings)


Percy Kelly studied etching at Carlisle College of Art as a mature student 1961 - 1965. He had been to an exhibition of French etchers in Maryport and realised the medium would be perfect for his own linear style with its strong lines. After 4 years at college he was awarded an NDD degree-his final report said Kelly has changed the face of printmaking at the college.

When he died in 1993 his son who had inherited his estate had planned to scrap the heavy printing press and boxes of plates but Chris Wadsworth, previous owner of Castlegate House, saved then from such a fate. The press was loaned appropriately to Carlisle College of Art.

In October 2010 there was an exhibition at the gallery of three of the country's leading printmakers; Norman Ackroyd RA, Jason Hicklin and Alistair Tucker. Having seen some of Kelly's work they persuaded Chris to show them the Kelly plates. They were astonished at the quality and almost insisted that they should be used to produce editions as Percy had printed off so few of each plate.

Robert Adam at Graal Press in Edinburgh with his partner Carol Robertson PHD were contacted regarding the plates. They have worked with some of Britain's top artists including Barbara Rae RA, OBE, Wilhelmina Barns Graham CBE, Victoria Crowe OBE. It was decided that they should be commissioned to make suites of prints. Robert took the plates away, cleaned and prepared them and made an artist's proof of each. He was impressed with the result. He marvelled at the craftsmanship and  innovative techniques employed by Kelly and was keen to make some editions. Like the other printmakers he felt the plates should be used and the results seen. It is not unusual for an artist to employ a technician to print the plates they have designed and made. The hard work and skill is in the making of the plate. The process in making an etching plate is long, tedious, fraught with difficulties and requires extraordinary skill. Kelly's labour of love should not be wasted.

Kelly had never printed off more than 1 or 2 etchings. He wasn't interested in selling so there was no point in so doing, but the ones he made and signed indicated a planned edition of 75.  So, eighteen years after his death, Chris and Robert chose ten plates from which to make an edition of  each.  Each is hand printed in the same way that Kelly would have printed them. These can be bought individually at or in a folio of 10 @ £2250.  The custom made CASTLEGATE FOLIO presentation box has been hand made  on the island of Uist and is beautiful.  It contains a colophon which explains and authenticates the  folio. It is a fitting piece of art for such a lovely suite of etchings.