What do British art historian Sister Wendy Beckett, world renowned designer Adrienne Vittadini, Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist Mike Peters, Marchesi de’ Frescobaldi (of the 700-year-old Tuscan winemaking family), Dr. Murf Klauber, owner of The Colony Beach and Tennis Resort, and rock star Brian Johnson, lead singer of AC/DC have in common? They are all admirers and collectors of William Kelley paintings!
For more than 20 years William and his author-wife Susan have split their time between his studios and their homes in Sarasota, Florida and Florence, Italy. Sister Wendy Beckett has described his work as “perfect harmony of form and colour”, AC/DC front man and collector Brian Johnson concurs, “The colors and beauty that are seen through William’s eyes are a reflection of the man himself.” Some collectors have visited his studios in Sarasota and Florence, such as cartoonist Mike Peters, who says, “Whenever we are lonely for Tuscany, all we have to do is look up at our walls. For there, in William Kelley's paintings, is the light, the color, and the ambiance of Italy. He captures the essence of Italy like no other modern painter.” Graci McGillicuddy, former chairperson of the Florida Arts Council, is one of his biggest fans and collectors. She and her husband Dennis own over 20 paintings. “William Kelley’s artistry uses color, both subtle and bold, to welcome us to his world of sight and feel. The richness of his expression presents an aliveness and energy that we feel each time we experience his work,” Graci says. On a recent visit to William’s studio, legendary artist Jeff Koons called him “the real deal”.
During the 80's and 90's Kelley had the opportunity to spend time traveling in Asia and Europe. His work from that time reflects the people and places he loved to visit: pub scenes from Dublin, Galway, and London as well as brightly colored street scenes from places such as Bangkok, Chiang-Mai and Kyoto.
For the past several years, Kelley has devoted his time to painting the dazzling Mediterranean light and hypnotic colors of Tuscany. His method is to go out into the countryside and work up small canvases on sight, along with sketches and photos, and then return to the studio for further refinement. There he may finish the smaller canvases or use them or the photos as memory guides to start on larger and perhaps more complex renditions. The large canvases challenge and inspire because of the conceptual challenges the artist sets himself. The complex, mesmerizing patterning and infinitude of subtle and transcendent color which characterize Kelley’s finest paintings--that shout for pure joy-- are the result of hard, concentrated work. Or as Sister Wendy so aptly put it: “It is as profound a vision as one could want--how Cezanne would love you.”
William en plein air
William painting in Monteriggioni, Italy
Sarasota Studio, FL
William working on a 7" x 5" piece.
Florence Studio, Italy
William working out on the "Pigeon Nest" of his Florence Studio.