The son of a painter and decorator, Frank McKelvey was born in Belfast in 1895. A poster designer, he attended the Belfast School of Art where he won the prize for figure drawing in 1912. His work was accepted by the Royal Hibernian Academy as early as 1918. For the next fifty-five years he never missed a year's showing at the RHA. In 1921 he was elected a member of the Belfast Art Society. He was appointed an associate of the RHA in 1923 and in 1930 he became a full member. During his lifetime McKelvey was considered on a par with Paul Henry and J Humbert Craig. He was elected one of the first academicians of the Ulster Academy of Arts when it was founded in 1930. He died on June 30, 1974. An exhibition of his oils and watercolours was held in 1979 at The Oriel Gallery.