Lifetime: 1861 - 1934 Passed: ≈ 90 years ago




United States

R. Talbot Kelly

Robert George Talbot Kelly was an English orientalist landscape and genre painter, author and illustrator.

He travelled to Egypt several times.In the early 1880s, inspired by the places he saw while on vacation on an ocean cruise ship, Talbot-Kelly decided to take up his father's profession. He left his employment in 1882, travelled by boat to North Africa, and settled in Egypt in 1883, acquiring a studio in Cairo and becoming fluent in Arabic. He travelled throughout the country, writing about and painting the people and scenes he encountered both in towns and in the desert. He spent a considerable time with the Bedouin tribes who he described and illustrated in his 1902 book, Egypt Painted and Described (A & C Black). As his name became known he also earned an income from private commissions. He stayed in Egypt until 1915 when for reasons of health and age he returned to London - though he continued to paint constantly.

Kelly travelled to Burma, which he wrote about and painted for two books published by A & C Black, Burma Painted and Described (1905) and Burma (1909). The former contains reproductions of 73 of Kelly's paintings and the latter contains 12 reproductions, all of which also appeared in the first book.

On his trip through Burma and the paintings he left of the country, Kelly had a significant impact on the early 20th century development of Burmese painting. In Burma, he is believed to have met and taught the basics of Western painting to a major painter of Burma, M.T. Hla (U Tun Hla) (1874–1946), and the paintings of Maung Maung Gyi (painter) (1890–1942) and Ba Ohn (c.1877-fl.1924) show clear influence of Kelly's style in certain works, to the point, in one case, of an exact replica. The latter two painters may possibly have met Kelly and received some instruction from him, but this would not have been necessary for Kelly's influence to have occurred. Kelly's two books were widely available in Burma, or so were postcard reproductions, which were sold in Burma, of the paintings in his books.

Kelly also did fine art reproductions of his watercolors on Burma (dated 1912) which today sell widely on the internet.

Talbot-Kelly worked mainly in watercolour and black and white. He was a member of the Royal Institute of Painters in Water Colours (RI), Royal Society of British Artists (RBA), Royal British Colonial Society of Artists (RBC) and the Royal Geographical Society (RGS).

He was President of the Liver Sketching Club in Liverpool in 1917 and also a member of the Artists' Club Liverpool, of which his father, Robert George Kelly, was a founder member.

Kelly died in London in 1934. He was married and had a son, Richard Barrett Talbot Kelly (1896–1971), MBE MC RI, who was also an artist, specialising in bird painting and historical subjects and an illustrator and who was a Lieutenant in the Royal Field Artillery in the First World War.

Books by R. Talbot Kelly

Peeps at Many Lands : Egypt Cover image

Peeps at Many Lands : Egypt

History Travel
Travel Geography

Written primarily for children, James Baikie's 'peep' at ancient Egypt is a really well done, historical account of the ways of that fascinating land so many years ago. It has stood well the test of time, being both well researched and well written....