Sir Gerald Kelly

Ma Si Gyaw, Pose IV

1909–14

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Artist
Sir Gerald Kelly 1879–1972
Medium
Oil paint on canvas
Dimensions
Support: 1270 x 1016 mm
Collection
Tate
Acquisition
Presented by Francis Howard through the National Loan Exhibitions Committee 1914
Reference
N03001

Not on display

Display caption

Kelly's portraits of Oriental dancers were at one time among the most popular of all popular prints. He first painted them early in his career, when he spent a period in 1908-9 in Mandalay in Burma, apparently to recover from an unhappy love affair. This portrait was begun there at that time, but on a smaller scale. In London a few years later Kelly enlarged the picture by adding more canvas, and painted the hands from another model. Kelly returned to Burma and Cambodia in the 1930s to paint further models.
Kelly was self taught, but was close to French and British painters in Paris early in the century. He became a successful portrait painter, and was President of the Royal Academy from 1949 to 1954.

Gallery label, August 2004

Catalogue entry

N03001 MA SI GYAW, POSE IV 1909–14
 
Inscr. ‘Kelly’ b.r.
Canvas, original size 33×25 1/2 (84×65); lined and enlarged to 50×40 (127×101·5).
Presented by Francis Howard through the National Loan Exhibitions Committee 1914.
Coll: Purchased at the R.A. by Francis Howard.
Exh: R.A., 1914 (157), as ‘Ma Si Gyan: dancer’; International Society, autumn 1914 (among works purchased for presentation to the Tate Gallery, p.56); R.A. Diploma Gallery, October–December 1957 (149).

The head and shoulders were painted in six sittings at Mandalay in 1909. Ma Si Gyaw was one of two dancers who posed regularly to the artist and he painted her about thirty-six times. The full title in his own records is ‘Ma Si Gyaw (Pose IV) Burmese Dancer, No.1, B. f. 38’. In 1910 the canvas was enlarged. The skirt was painted in London in 1913. Later he added the hands from a model, Reyes, in Seville. The background was repainted and simplified in 1914 and the lacquer box was added. The picture was enlarged not for any aesthetic reason but simply to fit an old Spanish frame which the artist had bought cheap. In 1958 Sir Gerald requested the Trustees to have the picture cut down to its original size, but this was refused.

After his return from Burma Kelly began an ambitious composition of Burmese dancers which was exhibited at the R.A. Diploma Gallery in 1957 (150) as ‘Yein Pwé: Pagan (B.f. 72)’.

Published in:
Mary Chamot, Dennis Farr and Martin Butlin, The Modern British Paintings, Drawings and Sculpture, London 1964, I

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