Talbot Kelly - the painting writer
Hotel: The Strand, Yangon, Myanmar
In 1905, R Talbot Kelly, a gifted painter and observant writer travelled around Burma. Unfortunately he didn’t leave us a painting of the Strand Hotel at that time, but he recorded his memories in the travelogue ‘Burma: Painted and Described.’
Robert George Talbot Kelly (1861 – 1934) was an English orientalist landscape and genre painter, author and illustrator. Kelly was the son of Irish landscape artist Robert George Kelly. In the early 1880s, inspired by the places he saw while on vacation on an ocean cruise ship, Talbot-Kelly decided to take up his father's profession. He travelled by boat to North Africa, and settled in Egypt in 1883, acquiring a studio in Cairo and becoming fluent in Arabic.
Kelly travelled to Burma, which he wrote about and painted for two books published by A & C Black, Burma Painted and Described (1905) and Burma (1909). Kelly had a significant impact on the early 20th century development of Burmese painting. In Burma, he taught the basics of Western painting. Kelly's two books were widely available in Burma, and so were postcard reproductions (or, as we have it today, copies of paintings from his books).
In Rangoon, luckily for us, he stayed at the Strand Hotel, which thanks to its close proximity to the passenger wharves was the first hotel to be seen.
He left an account of Strand’ life, one of the rare visitors’ comments of that time:
‘Half-an-hour after landing found me very comfortably installed in the Strand Hotel, a roomy bedroom with bathroom attached having been allotted to me, while its large enclosed verandah which practically formed a sitting room, gave me ample breathing space; and, making allowance for the latitude, the table d’hôte was excellent and varied.
I was a little disconcerted, however, the first night on retiring, to find that my bed was furnished with mattress, pillow and mosquito net only, no sheet or covering of any kind being provided. I imagined this to be an oversight; but the omission soon explained itself when I found that the thermometre never dropped below 98 degrees all night, and in the damp heat that prevailed it would have been impossible to have endured the weight of even a silk coverlet.’
More Strand, more Burma, more Myanmar today in our new edition of our book THE STRAND.