For almost half a century Dorothy Kay was the leading figure in the art life of the Eastern Province. As well as running an animated, happy home for her busy surgeon husband and their three daughters, she participated energetically in the affairs of the Eastern Province society of Arts.
Kay was fortunate in possessing two distinctive character traits, which are conspicuously reflected in her art: an ability to perceive essentials and an abiding sense of humour. She was completely lacking in any personal vanity and could regard herself and her endeavors with a practical detachment.
In the year before her death at the age of 78, Dorothy Kay had so transformed her earlier literary illusionism that she could, with sly wit, conceive the last of a long list of self portraits in terms of an abstract assemblage of symbolic items.
- 1900: Dublin Metropolitan School of Art; Royal Hibernian Academy School. Dorothy Kay also made study trips to Paris, but considered herself self-taught.
Short Artist Biography
- A member of the Elvery family, which had long been associated with the arts.
- 1910 : Dorothy Kay came to South Africa to marry Hobart Kay FRCS.
- 1916 : They settled in Port Elizabeth, where both became very active in artistic affairs.
- 1918 : Founder-member of EP Society of Arts and Crafts. Extremely energetic in several fields; a keen sailor, was for a time the fastest spinnaker-hand in South Africa. Always a zealous worker, she observed a disciplined programme, spending a fixed period in her studio each day.
- 1924 : Dorothy Kay elected member of Royal British & Colonial Society of Artists; began to etch; her etchings subsequently included in “Fine Prints of the Year: - 1929 and 1934.
- 1926 : An etching – Romance – was purchased by Queen Mary from the Dominion Artists’ Exhibition, London; began a long career as illustrator to the “Outspan”. Traveled widely in South Africa and abroad, always armed with sketch-book. Executed scores of commissioned portraits.
- 1940 : Dorothy Kay commissioned by Union Government to paint a record of war effort on the home front – e.g Surgery and Blood Donor in South African National War Museum. Johannesburg. Represented on numerous national and international exhibitions; ceased one-man exhibitions after 1955.
- 1957 : Two paintings, Annie Mavata and Rome, Self-portrait highly commended on the exhibition, “Portrait of a Woman by a Woman” at Sydney Art Gallery, Australia.
- 1922 : Dorothy Kay's first one-man exhibition, Grahamstown. Regular participant on Eastern Province society exhibitions.
- 1924 : South African Section, Empire Exhibition, Wembley.
- 1926 : Dominion Artists’ Exhibition, London.
- 1940 : Royal Academy.
- 1952 : Van Riebeeck Tercent Exhibition, Cape Town.
- 1956 : First Quad of South African Art.
- 1960 : Second Quad of South African Art; South African Graphic Art Exhibition in Yugoslavia and Munich.
- 1961 : Soa Paulo Bien (graphic).
- 1964 : Third Quad of South African Art; Venice Bien (graphic).
- 1965 : Posthumous – “South African Women Artist”, South African National Gallery, Cape Town.
- 1966 : Prestige retrospective art exhibition, Pretoria Art Museum, Durban Art Gallery; Republic Fest Exhibition, Pretoria.
- 1979 : “South African Printmakers”, South African National Art Gallery, Cape Town.
- 1982 : Prestige Retrospect Exhibition, South African National Art Gallery, Cape Town.
Public Art Collections
South African National Art Gallery, Cape Town; Durban Art Gallery; Pretoria Art Museum, Grahamstown; Queenstown Art Gallery; Africana Museum, Johannesburg; South African National War Museum, Johannesburg.