Kay, Dorothy Moss (1886–1964), artist, was born 3 December 1886 in Greystones, Co. Wicklow, one of seven children of (John) William Elvery , merchant, and his wife, Mary Teresa (d. 1925), daughter of Dr William Moss of Kilternan, Co. Dublin, and Teresa Moss (née Richardson) of Kilgobbin, Co. Dublin. Dorothy came from a strongly artistic family. Her mother was a prominent sculptor and music teacher. Her maternal aunt, Phoebe Traquair (qv), moved to Edinburgh, where she became a leading exponent of the arts and crafts style. Her sister Beatrice Campbell (qv), later Lady Glenavy, was recognised as a leading sculptor and painter in the arts and crafts tradition, and tutored at the Dublin Metropolitan School of Art and at the National Art Training School, South Kensington, and the Académie Colarossi, Paris. Dorothy became familiar with Beatrice's artistic circle, which included the distinguished sculptor John Hughes (qv), Elizabeth Yeats (qv), D. H. Lawrence, Katherine Mansfield, and George Bernard Shaw (qv).
Dorothy's outstanding graphic skills were recognised before she was ten years old, and in 1900 she followed her sister's illustrious career at the Dublin Metropolitan School of Art, and later the Royal Hibernian Academy School, where she studied under Walter Osborne (qv) and Jack B. Yeats (qv). At 16 she was awarded the Taylor Art Scholarship for figure drawing. Following study in Paris, she exhibited at the RHA. She emigrated to South Africa, where she married (17 May 1910) Hobart William Ashburner Kay, who was for many years district surgeon of Port Elizabeth. There were four children of the marriage and her family remained central to her life. Settling in that city in 1916, she became a founder member of the Eastern Province Society of Arts and Crafts. She became closely involved with the artistic journal The Outspan, to which she contributed more than 2,000 black-and-white illustrations and became recognised as a leading exponent of graphic skills. Originally, her paintings were in the realistic ‘English academic style’, but in her later work tended towards surrealism. Humorous, popular, and colourful, she later became a keen gardener and potter and she possessed a strong sense of civic duty to her community.
In 1924 she participated in the British Empire Exhibition at Wembley and exhibited works in Jamaica, Canada, Australia, and the Royal Academy in London. In 1940 she was commissioned by the South African government to record the Union's war effort. Several of her paintings are held at the South African National War Museum in Johannesburg. She was commissioned to paint a portrait of Field Marshal Jan Christiaan Smuts (1870–1950), presented to him by the municipality of Port Elizabeth on his eightieth birthday. She also completed murals at the Reserve Bank, the Wool Board, General Motors (Port Elizabeth), and the South African Broadcasting Corporation buildings in Grahamstown. She exhibited at the Van Riebeck South African tercentenary (1952), the Rhodes centenary (1953), and the South African quadrennials (1956, 1960, and 1964). In 1957 Sydney Art Gallery bought two of her paintings, a self-portrait and ‘Cookie-Annie Marata’, which they had placed among the top ten paintings (out of 450) of a woman by a woman. Her works were exhibited at expositions of South African graphic art in Munich and Yugoslavia (1960), the São Paolo biennial (1962), and the Venice biennial (1964). Her work was purchased for collections of the South African National Gallery in Cape Town, the Durban and Pretoria art galleries, the Rembrandt Art Centre, Johannesburg, and the William Humphreys Gallery, Kimberley. She died in Port Elizabeth on 13 May 1964.