Keay, Harry (1914-1994)

Keay, Harry (1914-1994)

Harry Keay (1890-1948) was an accomplished Scottish painter of landscapes, portraits and still lifes. He trained at the Dundee College of Art and his works were shown at the Royal Academy, Royal Scottish Academy, and Royal Society of British Artists. In 1936, Dame Laura Knight described him as possessing an ‘extremely rare talent’. Dundee Art Galleries and Museum holds examples.


Royal Academy, Glasgow Institute of the Fine Arts, Royal Society of British Artists, Royal Scottish Academy, Bournemouth Corporation, The ‘20’ Club in Dundee, Galashiels Art Society.

Public Collections

Dundee Art Galleries and Museums Collection.



Born. His father is referred to as ‘Captain Keay’, which possibly relates to Harry Keay (c.1876-1939) who was a captain in the Royal Navy. If so, his mother was Jane Livingston Keay (nee Murray).


Trained at the Dundee College of Art.


Mentioned in the Evening Telegraph.

“The famous picture by Harry Keay is on view this week at The Panmure Art Salon. This beautiful Still Life Painting was greatly admired by Dame Laura Knight, R.A. Year visit of inspection is cordially invited. Robertson & Bruce, Ltd.,90 Commercial Street, Dundee.”

Praised by Dame Laura Knight as reported in the Dundee Courier & Advertiser.

“Praise For Student's Work. Dame Laura Knight at Art College. The importance of art and artists was emphasised by Dame Laura Knight, the noted painter, when she addressed the students of Dundee Art College yesterday. She was one of the assessors appointed by the four Scottish Art Colleges to judge the work for the diplomas in drawing and painting. She said that from blocks of stone on the earth's crust men had made magnificent edifices.

Colours had been extracted from the earth, and put to use by man in expressing his thoughts. Art was what actually made man man, and what raised him above mere eating, drinking, and child bearing. Those who had this gift held one of the most precious things in life, because it was the gift of giving to the rest of humanity those things which they, the artists, could do in a special way. They were like a plant, to grow and bear fruit which would enrich the lives of future generations.

Dame Laura Knight congratulated the students on their work, and singled out for special mention Tom Moore, Margaret Blair, Mary Brown, Ian Edie, Harry Keay, and Lilian Peters. Mr Francis Cooper, principal of the College of Art, presided.

Yesterday evening Dame Laura Knight dined at the home of Mr Frank Donald, chairman of the College of Art Committee, and later left for Aberdeen, where she will complete her work in the Scottish schools of art.”

The Evening Telegraph included a quote from Dame Laura Knight.

"’There is a still life group which literally takes my breath away,’ remarked Dame Knight, pointing to a work by Harry Keay, representing a group of pots arranged in front of drapery. ‘It interests me strangely, not only on account of its unity, its sense of solidity, but because the drapery is really drawn. It takes a great artist to do that."


Lived in Arbroath, Scotland.

Referred to in the Dundee Courier & Advertiser.

“Four oil paintings by Mr Harry Keay, 41 Mains Loan, Dundee, are also on view at the Liverpool autumn show. Mr Keay another former student at Dundee College of Art, was winner of last year's travelling scholarship. He returned from the Continent recently. His work while a student received glowing praise from Dame Laura Knight.”

C. 1940- C. 1975

Employed as an art teacher at the Morgan Academy.


Married Dorothy Lilian Andrews in Dundee.


Debuted at the Royal Academy. As reported in The Evening Telegraph.

“Academy Tribute To Dundee Artist. Mr Harry Keay shares pride of place in one of the galleries at Burlington House, London, with the President of the Royal Academy. His picture from his Nethergate studio of a Scottish farm hangs above one of Sir Alfred Munnings' principal exhibits, ‘After The Race.’ The hanging is a well-deserved tribute to the work of the Dundee artist. From the vantage point of the hill one looks down the dyke-lined cart road to the farm steading with the stooks, beyond them are the little rivulet, the distant hills, and the sea. One of those typical farm scenes of Angus or Fife, it has a charm about it all its own.”

Referred to The Evening Telegraph.

“Mr Harry Keay, Nethergate Studio, Dundee, whose picture, ‘Farmyard,’ is being exhibited at the Royal Academy exhibition in London, is an art teacher at Morgan Academy. He does his painting after school hours and at week-ends. This is the first time he has submitted a picture to the Royal Academy. Mr Keay received high praise for his work when he was studying at the Dundee College of Art.

Dame Laura Knight, after her inspection of the college in 1936, wrote to Lord Provost Phin:-

‘I should like to bring to your most special notice the achievements and extraordinary talent of the boy student with the disabled arm, in whose work I perceive an extremely rare talent, together with a power of execution that is altogether out of the common.’

That year he had a picture accepted and hung in the Royal Scottish Academy, and he has been contributing annually since then. After completing six years' training at the College of Art, Mr Keay gained a travelling scholarship. He also studied under Mr J. Cowie at Hospitalfield College, Arbroath, for six months. During the war he was in the Observer Corps. He is married and has a three- year-old son who has started already with the oils and brush. For a spell Mr Keay was a pupil of Mr McIntosh Patrick, the other Dundee painter represented in the Academy exhibition.”


Shown at the Royal Academy. As referred to in The Evening Telegraph.

“Angus Study. Two Dundee artists are among the successful Scottish exhibitors. Mr Harry Keay of Dalrymple Terrace, has two pictures which made the critics sit up and take notice. His ‘Winter Landscape’ is one of the best studies of an Angus farm town that I have seen in any academy. The snow-covered barns, the stone dykes, the bare trees, and the white fields stretching down to a leaden sea make a convincing picture of some corner in the county familiar to most of us.

It is as much a statement of fact as a picturesque effect. The other exhibit from this Dundee artist's studio is a study of still life. The lustre jug which gives the picture its title, the books, the fruit on the willow patterned plate, the sampler, are in contrast with the bright white and blue table-cloth which gives the study its striking note.”


Shown at the Royal Academy. As referred to in The Evening Telegraph.

“Of the work of the Dundee artists, pride of place is won by Mr Harry Keay. His two still life pictures, in my opinion, are reminiscent to some extent of the work of some of the later Dutch masters. Of the two, I have difficulty in making up my mind which makes the greater appeal. There is perhaps more craftsmanship in ‘The Striped Parasol.’ In ‘The Letter’ the subdued tone of the picture with the black vase, the drooping tulips tastefully arranged, the lace and the same parasol as in his first picture, make up a study which will have a wide appeal. ‘The Striped Parasol’ is not only a careful composition but is remarkable for the realistic treatment of the objects. The hand mirror in the fore part with its reflection is a picture in itself, while the lace, always a difficult subject to paint, is extremely well presented.”


Referred to in the Dundee Courier.

“Dundee critic of Picasso school. Mr Harry Keay, well-known Dundee artist, was the speaker at the opening meeting for the season of Dundee Art Society in Roseangle Rooms last night. His lecture, which was illustrated, was entitled ‘The Art of the Still Life Painter.’ Referring to the extreme modern Picasso school, he said he was not sure what they were aiming at, and he did not think they were very sure themselves sometimes. Miss I. M. Barnet, president, presided and thanks were proposed by Mr W. S. Philip.”

“Dundee painting to be exhibited. Mr Harry Keay, well-known Dundee artist. has been invited to exhibit at the forthcoming Bournemouth Corporation art exhibition entitled ‘Art Inspired by Music.’ The selected work is his oil painting of the Joseph Guarnerius del Gesu violin belonging to Dr John Emmerson, 8 Roxburgh Terrace, Dundee. The doctor's valuable collection of violins is now in the region of 20, and the subject of the painting, acquired two years ago. is the latest addition. Mr Keay, who resides at Romney. Dalrymple Terrace, is art teacher at Morgan Academy, and has exhibited at the Royal Academy.”


Referred to in the Dundee Courier.

“Invitation to Angus artists. Mr Harry Keay, Dundee, is among a number of well-known artists invited to exhibit at the autumn exhibition of Galashiels Art Society from Friday of this week until September 27. Others are Ian Fleming, Robert Condie, A. Bruce Thomson, R. Henderson Blyth, W. G. Gillies, Anne Redpath, Charles Oppenheimer, and Dr Elder Dickson. Mr Keay who lives at Romney, Dalrymple Terrace, is an art teacher at Morgan Academy, and has exhibited at the Royal Academy. His choice for the forthcoming exhibition is ‘Dorothea's Bonnet’ an oil painting which has already been on view at the Royal British Artists Society exhibition in London and the ‘20’ Club exhibition in Dundee. Mr Fleming is warden of Hospitalfield, Arbroath, and Mr Condie is a principal teacher of art at Brechin High School.”



Obituary in The Courier & Advertiser.

“Former teacher at Morgan Academy. A former Dundee artist and school teacher has died in Aberdeen at the age of 79. Mr Harry Keay taught at Morgan Academy nearly all his working life, retiring as head of the art department in the mid-70s. Born and educated in Dundee, he studied at the college of art, for a time under Dr J. McIntosh Patrick, with whom he maintained a close association throughout his life.

Mr Keay painted throughout his career and had several works hung in the Royal Academy and the Royal Scottish Academy. After retiring from teaching he moved north to Kingston, near Elgin. Mr Keay’s son Robin said he is trying to track down as many of his father's paintings as he can with a view to cataloguing them and ultimately producing a book. A widower, Mr Keay is survived by his son, three grandsons and two great-grandsons. Last night Dr Patrick said Mr Keay had been a fine artist and a good friend.”

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