Editor's note: The Honolulu Academy of Arts provided source material to Resource Library for the following article or essay. If you have questions or comments regarding the source material, please contact the Honolulu Academy of Arts directly through either this phone number or web address:


Hawaiian Idyll: The Prints of John Kelly

September 8 - October 23, 2005


The Honolulu Academy of Arts is presenting Hawaiian Idyll: The Prints of John Kelly in the Henry R. Luce Special Exhibition Gallery through October 23, 2005. (right: John Kelly, United States/Hawaii, 1878 -1962, Breadfruit Boy, Hawaii, ca. 1930s or 1940s, color aquatint, 14 7/16 x 9 5/8 inches (36.7 x 24.4 cm). Gift of John Melville Kelly, Jr., and Marion Greig Anderson Kelly Trust, 1999)

Like other artists in Hawaii during the first half of the twentieth century, John Kelly (1878­1962) traveled to Oahu expecting to stay a year but remained a lifetime. He ultimately became one of the most beloved portrayers of Hawaiians and their island lifestyle. A prolific printmaker during the 1920s­40s, Kelly depicted first in black and white etchings and drypoints and then more complex color aquatint prints portrait studies and scenes of daily activities in Hawaii's tropical Pacific setting. Using the people he knew as his models -- hula dancers, housekeepers, and fisherman, among others -- he rendered his sitters, ranging from keiki (children) to kupuna (seniors), with sensitive characterizations and captured them in occupations familiar as a part of local life. Much of Kelly's imagery has come to personify for many today the beauty and grace of Old Hawaii, a romanticized notion of the quieter and gentler side of Hawaii's past.

Hawaiian Idyll: The Prints of John Kelly is the first major exhibition of the artist's work since the memorial show that commemorated him and his achievements on his death. Drawn from the Academy's preeminent collection of prints by Kelly, extensively deepened over the past twelve years by generous donations made by the Kelly family, the exhibition will survey his career as a printmaker.

The prints will span Kelly's years as an active printmaker, hinting at his stylistic development and the broadening of his imagery. The exhibition will showcase Kelly's early drypoints and etchings before he learned the aquatint process in the 1930s and devoted himself to color intaglio printmaking, as well as the range of his color work as it became increasingly stylized in design, complex in execution, and romanticized in imagery. Hawaiian Idyll will feature impressions of some of Kelly's best-known work, such as Kamalii, 1934, and Grass Skirt, Hawaii, 1953, both gift prints published by the Honolulu Printmakers. Bodies of work less familiar to his audience, such as portraits and, as began to appear around the 1940s, subjects based on Eastern philosophy, art history, and culture, will also be featured.

Kelly's technical processes as a printmaker will be explored through a sampling of working proofs corrected with ink wash. In addition, the exhibition will include impressions reflecting early states and, in one instance, a set of progress proofs documenting the development of an impression through the superimposed printing of multi-color inkings of a plate. The actual copper plate Kelly used for the creation of Grass Skirt, Hawaii will reflect the delicacy of his intaglio linework.

Kelly's life and career as a printmaker will take fuller shape through an interpretive section that will feature among other things, a selection of prints and sculpture by Kate Kelly, an artist, Kelly's wife, and his instructor in printmaking after taking at the University of Hawaii a class on the subject led by Hawaii printmaker Huc Luquiens. Photographs shot by Kate Kelly of John Kelly's models in costume striking a pose together with drawings of his models taken from life will further deepen the exhibition's examination of Kelly's working techniques. A group of Kelly's printmaking tools, printing papers and tartan rags, and other memorabilia will bring his printmaking vividly to life. (right: John Kelly, United States/Hawaii, 1878 -1962, Breadfruit Girl, Hawaii, ca. 1930s, color aquatint, 14 1/4 x 9 13/16 inches (36.2 x 24.9 cm). Gift of John Melville Kelly, Jr., and Marion Greig Anderson Kelly Trust, 1999)

The Academy's Curator of Western art, Jennifer Saville, is organizing this major retrospective exhibition celebrating the art and life of one of Hawaii's preeminent artists.

Also on exhibit is A.S. MacLeod: Prints of Hawaii at War and Peace. Jennifer Saville, Curator of Western Art says of the exhibit:

Canadian-born Alexander Samuel MacLeod (1888­1956) arrived in Hawaii in the early 1920s and, while working in the art departments of the magazine Paradise of the Pacific and the local papers, The Honolulu Advertiser and the Honolulu Star-Bulletin, he was also an active member of Honolulu's arts community. As a painter and lithographer, he was celebrated for his direct and sympathetic representations of rural Oahu and Hawaii's native population. Living many years on the Windward side of Oahu, he became familiar with the Koolau Mountains-their shapes, patterns, and spatial relationships-and the lifestyle of Hawaiians as they engaged in daily pursuits such as holding a hukilau, cultivating taro, preparing for a luau, etc. In a civilian capacity during World War II, MacLeod also supervised a staff of Army artists at Fort Shafter who recorded in oil and watercolor wartime Hawaii and combat in the Pacific. MacLeod himself created a body of prints depicting those who served in the military along with scenes that suggest the war's impact on daily life. Although lesser-known, the latter lithographs are poignant reminders of Hawaii's contributions to the war effort.
In two rotations, A.S. MacLeod: Prints of Hawaii at War and Peace will feature a selection of lithographs from the Academy's collection. The first rotation (July 21­October 16, 2005) will showcase a variety of MacLeod's representations of native Hawaiians; the second (October 20, 2005­January 22, 2006) will feature a variety of vistas across the Koolau range along with images that depict Hawaii and its soldiers during the war years of the 1940s. Taken together the prints reflect MacLeod's bold draftsmanship, command of pictorial representation, and mastery of the lithographic process as well as the keen sensitivity he brought to recording the world around him.

(above: Alexander Samuel MacLeod, (1888-1956), Pig and Poi, ca. 1930, lithograph 9 15/16 x 11 3/8 inches (25.24 x 28.89 cm.). Purchase, 1931)


(above: Alexander Samuel MacLeod, (1888-1956), Untitled (Man preparing to throw a fishing net), lithograph, 9 1/4 x 7 1/8 inches (23.50 x 18.10 cm). Purchase, 1990)


(above: Alexander Samuel MacLeod, (1888-1956), Mountains and Rice Fields, lithograph, 10 1/2 x 12 inches (26.66 x 30.47 cm). Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Watters O. Martin, Jr., 1994)


Editor's note: RL readers may also enjoy:

Links to sources of information outside of our web site are provided only as referrals for your further consideration. Please use due diligence in judging the quality of information contained in these and all other web sites. Information from linked sources may be inaccurate or out of date. Traditional Fine Arts Organization, Inc. (TFAO) neither recommends or endorses these referenced organizations. Although TFAO includes links to other web sites, it takes no responsibility for the content or information contained on those other sites, nor exerts any editorial or other control over them. For more information on evaluating web pages see TFAO's General Resources section in Online Resources for Collectors and Students of Art History.

Read more articles and essays concerning this institutional source by visiting the sub-index page for the Honolulu Academy of Arts in Resource Library Magazine

Visit the Table of Contents for Resource Library for thousands of articles and essays on American art.

Copyright 2005 Traditional Fine Arts Organization, Inc., an Arizona nonprofit corporation. All rights reserved.