James Edward Kelly (James Edward Kelly)

James Edward Kelly

Artist, Illustrator.  Best known for the portrait statue of General John Buford on the Gettysburg Battlefield, James Edward Kelly’s work reflected his passion for historic accuracy.  His exceptional talents in the visual arts became evident at an early age, and the American Civil War, the defining event of his childhood, was to be a lifelong inspiration. While still in his early 20’s he distinguished himself as a highly successful illustrator for Harper’s and Scribner’s publications, a position which facilitated his access to many celebrities of the late 19th Century.  Determined to capture historic events and personalities without resorting to “artistic license”, he conducted in-depth interviews with more than 40 Union generals, including Sheridan, Sherman, Grant, and Chamberlain.  Kelly’s gift for putting his subjects at ease in his Manhattan studio rewarded him with the authentic detail he sought for his art, and many revealed significant information in their conversations with the artist that was not included in their memoirs or recorded by historians.  In addition to numerous military notables, his friends also included inventor Thomas Edison and Civil War photographer Matthew Brady.  Despite the prestige he enjoyed in his prime, Kelly later became impoverished, and his financial situation exacerbated by the Great Depression.  In 1931, two years before his death, he tried to interest publishers in a memoir based on his treasure trove of interview notes, but was told that there was insufficient public interest in the Civil War to make such a venture profitable.  James Edward Kelly died at the age of 77, leaving no known survivors, and was buried in an unmarked grave at St. Raymond’s.  His life is the subject of the book “Generals in Bronze”, and efforts are currently underway to provide a marker for his final resting place. (bio by: Nikita Barlow)  Family links:  Spouse:  Helen McKay Kelly (1871 – 1929)* *Calculated relationship

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  • July, 30, 1855
  • USA
  • New York, New York


  • May, 05, 1933
  • USA
  • New York, New York


  • Old Saint Raymonds Cemetery
  • Bronx, New York
  • USA

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