TK worked in a variety of media over a period of more than fifty years, watercolour, gauche, pencil, pen and ink, etchings and folded paper dimensional animals. TK had a life long fascination with birds, writing and illustrating a number of books on British Birds. Through his role as the art master at a boys school, he was prolific creating graphic posters for school events. As a subaltern in the first world war and a senior camouflage instructor during the second, TK also created a number of war front and camouflage instructional images.


British artist and illustrator R.B. Talbot-Kelly was a hereditary artist. His grandfather Robert George Kelly (1822-1910) was a famous landscape painter who left a lot of canvases of Scottish and Irish landscapes. His father Robert George Talbot-Kelly (1861-1934) was a well-known orientalist painter and writer. His father-in-law was the well know British Pre-Raphaelite painter Edgar Bundy (1862-1922). TK as he was known to his friends, was born on August 20, 1896 in Birkenhead, Cheshire.


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Richard Barrett Talbot Kelly, or TK as he was later known, was born in Birkenhead in 1896. A son and grandson of artists, he fostered a love for wildlife and natural history and began painting pictures at an early age. He drew inspiration from formalised but simple Egyptian paintings of birds in their natural surroundings observed on trips made with his parents. Familiarity with his subjects, which included both insight and understanding, was the key to Talbot Kelly’s work. His ability to exclude what he knew to be the facts and concentrate on what he had seen puts his work into the highest category of bird painting.

R.B. Talbot-Kelly studied from 1911 to 1914. in Rugby School (Rugby School, in Rugby, Warwickshire, England), then served in the Royal Artillery from 1915-1929. Attaining the rank of lieutenant, visiting the fronts of the First World War and watching her horrors. In 1917 he was wounded whilst serving in the Royal Artillery (1915-29). He was Director of Art at Rugby School from 1929-1966. He drew and painted throughout his army career, and regularly exhibited at Royal Watercolour Society. In 1925 he was elected a member of the Royal Institute of Watercolor Artists, repeatedly exhibiting his works at numerous exhibitions and vernissages. During the Second World War (1939-1945) he was the chief camouflage instructor in the Royal Artillery. Later he was a design consultant for the Natural History Pavilion at the Festival of Britain in 1951. In 1964, he was a founder-member of the Society of Wildlife Artists. After his retirement in 1966 he illustrated books for Puffin Books. His earlier published works include ‘The Way of Birds’ (1937), ‘Paper Birds’ (1946) and ‘Bird Life And The Painter’ (1955). His ‘A Subaltern’s Odyssey: Memoirs of the Great War, 1915-1917’ was published posthumously in 1980.

Especially carefully and reliably, he portrayed the life of birds. His acquaintance with this subject, providing insight and understanding, included the ability to seemingly penetrate into their very essence. His ability to exclude what he knew to be the facts and concentrate on what he had seen puts his work into the highest category of bird painting.

TK died on March 30, 1971 in his bed in Leicester.

This is an interesting report in the British National War Museum of his perspective in the first world war:

This is a description, from July 4th 1992, of TK murals being re-exhibited 50 years after their creation:



Nelson, Seattle, Vancouver




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