Kelly, H.O., 1884-1955

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Kelly, H.O., 1884-1955

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Born March 6, 1884 in Bucyrus, Ohio, but lured out West as a youth, Harold Osman Kelly (1884-1955) traveled a long, hard road before turning his hand to painting as a means of support. Kelly's father was a Lancaster County, Pennsylvaniarailroader and his mother an Ohio born German. In Kelly's own words he loved animals and felt a desire to work with them from his earliest years, leaving school at 16 to work in stables around his home. H.O. Kelly's great American dream, however, was to own Western land and raise fine stock, particularly horses. For nearly 40 years of his life he worked in thirty states as a muleskinner, farmer, logger, bull-whacker, mill hand, sheepherder, freighter, and rancher. With the help of family, H.O. and his wife Jessie, whom he met and married in Arkansas, finally bought a farm in the Texas Panhandle in 1921. By 1939, however, the Dust Bowl swirled H.O. Kelly's dream into a bank foreclosure. Health broken after years of hard outdoor work, Kelly and his wife settled in Blanket, Texas, where he turned more and more to his painting, first with watercolors, then in oils by 1947, not only to occupy his mind and time, but to provide a modest supplementary means of support for himself and Jessie. His first one-man show was held at the Dallas Museum of Fine Arts in 1950 at the invitation of Jerry Bywaters, the museum director and Kelly's early champion. Kelly died in Blanket, Texas December 12, 1955.


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