The Irish landscape artist and portrait painter Frank McKelvey was born in Belfast in 1895. Initially a poster designer, he studied drawing and painting at the Belfast School of Art where he won the Charles Brett prize for figure drawing in 1912.
His drawings from the nude also received commendation, and in 1914 he won the Fitzpatrick prize for his figure sketches. In 1917 he won the bronze in Dublin’s Taylor art competition.
Frank McKelvey first attracted attention with his pictures of ‘old’ Belfast, and his landscape painting. In 1917, his artwork was accepted by the Royal Hibernian Academy (RHA) when he was only 23. For the next fifty-five years he showed every year at the RHA. In 1919, he showed five paintings at the Water Colour Society of Ireland exhibition. In 1921, McKelvey was elected a member of the Belfast Art Society. He was appointed an associate member ARHA of the RHA in 1923, and in 1930 he became a full member. In 1930, along with Hans Iten, Charles Lamb and others, he was elected one of the founding academicians of the Ulster Academy of Arts.
Frank McKelvey’s paintings were shown at various exhibitions during his lifetime, including: the Glasgow Institute of Fine Arts; the Belfast Museum and Art Gallery; the exhibition of Irish art in Brussels (1930); the Hackett Galleries, New York; Ulster House, London; Contemporary Irish Art exhibition in Aberystwyth; Royal Ulster Academy; Royal Hibernian Academy; the Oireachtas; solo shows at Locksley Hall in Belfast, Victor Waddington Galleries in Dublin and Ulster House in London. During his career, McKelvey was thought of as being on the same artistic level as the landscape artists Paul Henry and James Humbert Craig. However, McKelvey was also a prolific and skilful portraitist, painting the portraits of a wide range of subjects including: thirteen US Presidents with roots in Ulster. He also executed a number of marine and naval paintings.
Frank McKelvey died on June 30, 1974. Five years later, an exhibition of his oils and watercolours was held at The Oriel Gallery, Dublin. Examples of his art can be found in numerous public and private collections, in Ireland, the United Kingdom and the Netherlands.
Most Expensive Work by Frank McKelvey
The auction record for a work by Frank McKelvey was set in 2005, when his painting, entitled The Good Companions, was sold at Whytes, Dublin, for €102,000.