The Bermuda Collection

Identifying a Local Landscape

John David Kelly

Currently on display for the first time is one of our most recent acquisitionsUntitled by John David Kelly (Canadian, 1862-1958). Painted circa 1893, it is believed that the painting depicts Bermuda, distinguished by the dark cedar tree to the right. Consultation with both the National Museum of Bermuda and the Bermudian Heritage Museum confirmed it as such with  evidence  suggesting that that the two men depicted are Bermudian, identified by the “the tool (scythe) which was used to cut tall grass or very thin branch trees” and the “cloth head tie used to keep the sun and dust off the head”. 

Whilst the exact location depicted in the painting cannot be verified it is thought to be Harbour Road, looking out towards the Royal Hamilton Amateur Dinghy Club. The fluidity of the painting suggests that it was painted on location and this is further supported by records which show that Kelly travelled to Bermuda for six weeks in 1893 due to ill health. 

Untitled by John David Kelly (Canadian, 1862 – 1958). Watercolour and gouache on paper c. 1893. Collection of Bermuda National Gallery.

Here, he met his future wife Alice Palmer Bigelow who was visiting from NYC. Several of the paintings that Kelly made during his time in Bermuda were exhibited in Canada between 1895 and 1901 and it is believed that this painting may in fact be A Glimpse of the Atlantic, Bermuda which was exhibited at the Royal Canadian Academy of Arts in 1895.  

After graduating from the Ontario College of Art, Kelly joined the Toronto Lithography Company in 1884 and became one of its most prominent illustrators. He was one of the founders of the Arts Students League of Toronto (1886) and in 1904 became a member of the Ontario Society of Artists. His work is held in the permanent collection of museums across Canada.