N04703 THE JESTER (W. SOMERSET MAUGHAM) 1911
Canvas, 40×30 (101·5×76).
Chantrey Purchase from the artist 1933.
Exh: Modern Portrait Painters, R.I., 1912 (25); Contemporary British Art, Whitechapel Art Gallery, October–December 1929 (132); R.A., 1933 (378); R.A. Diploma Gallery, October–December 1957 (272).
Repr: Royal Academy Illustrated, 1933, p.77.
Painted in July 1911 at the artist's studio in 7 William Street. There were thirty to forty sittings. This was the third of many portraits of Somerset Maugham painted by Kelly. The first, which was destroyed, and the second were painted in 1907, soon after the two became friends. In ‘An 80th Birthday Tribute to Somerset Maugham’ (Sunday Times, 24 January 1954) Kelly wrote: ‘I first met Somerset Maugham in the garden of a villa which his elder brother had taken for the summer at Meudon. I was struck by the fact that his whole face was just one colour - very pale - and that his eyes were like little pieces of brown velvet - like monkey's eyes. I thought he looked very distinguished.’
For later portraits of Somerset Maugham (b. 1874, author and playwright) see Epstein, No.6132, and Sutherland, N06034. In the preface to the 1956 edition of The Magician, a novel which deals with artists, he described the reason for his move to Paris about 1904 and says that a few months before this he had made friends with Gerald Kelly. ‘It was he who first made me acquainted with the Impressionists, whose pictures had recently been accepted by the Luxembourg.’ In 1919 he published The Moon and Sixpence, based on the life of Gauguin.
Mary Chamot, Dennis Farr and Martin Butlin, The Modern British Paintings, Drawings and Sculpture, London 1964, I
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