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Frederick Septimus Kelly

(1881-1916), Composer and rower; Olympian

Sitter in 1 portrait
Born in Sydney, Australia, Frederick Septimus Kelly was a skilled oarsman who won an Olympic gold medal with the British rowing team in 1908. He studied piano in Frankfurt before joining the British Royal Naval division in September 1914. Serving alongside the poet Rupert Brooke, and the critic and composer William Denis Browne, Kelly was twice wounded in Gallipolli, where he wrote musical scores from his tent. His tribute to Brooke, Elegy for String Orchestra: 'In Memoriam Rupert Brooke' (1915), whom he helped bury on the island of Skyros, marked a profound and personal loss. Kelly was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross and reached the rank of lieutenant-commander. He was killed during the Battle of the Somme and buried in the Martinsart British Cemetery.

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Frederick Septimus Kelly, after John Singer Sargent - NPG D36773

Frederick Septimus Kelly

after John Singer Sargent
photographic reproduction, 1915-1930 (1915)
NPG D36773

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Kevin Gordon

06 September 2020, 02:54

I own the original Sargent charcoal portrait of F. S. Kelly, which Sargent drew on the morning of February 21, 1915 in his Tite Street studio. I also own the companion charcoal of Kelly's sister Mary, known as Maisie. Both were purchased in 1983 and have been in my collection since then.

Christopher Gordon

15 November 2017, 13:35

As a consequence of the WW1 Centenary commemorations, there seems to be a considerable 'rediscovery' of Kelly's compositions in his native Australia, with a CD of his music issued and performances becoming more frequent. Kelly's diaries, which are very informative about professional music in London between around 1908 and 1915, were rediscovered and are edited and published as: 'Race Against Time; the Diaries of F.S. Kelly', ed. Thérèse Radic (Canberra: National Library of Australia, 2004). Kelly was the lifelong unrequited passion of the Hungarian violinist Jelly d'Aranyi (NPG 5735), who kept the Sargent charcoal drawing of him on her piano up until her death in 1966.

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