Black Bottle, 2008

by Mary Fedden

P.O.A.

DIMENSIONS: (unframed) 12.0 x 16.0 in./ 30.5 x 40.6 cm
SIGNED: Signed lower left ‘Fedden ’08’
MEDIUM: Oil on canvas

Catalogue No: 4828 Categories: ,

Mary Fedden was a prominent Modern British artist known in particular for her intriguing still lifes, of which Black Bottle, 2008 is an excellent example. Throughout her life Fedden remained adamant that the arrangement of objects in her paintings were not symbolic of anything but rather that they are simply objects that she loves to paint, again and again. Art historian Christopher Andreae has suggested that her still life works can be seen as her personal ‘cabinet of curiosities’ (Andreae  Christopher, Mary Fedden: Enigmas and Variations, Lund Humphries Publishers Ltd, London, 2009, p.118).  As the artist has explained, ‘I come back from holiday with sketchbooks full of landscapes … and then I’m back to still life. It’s my real love’ (quoted in Andreae 2009, p.118).

Using her signature bright colours, Fedden has divided the composition into three, typical of her later work. She moved away from her earlier loose outlines of colour to a more hard-edge style. Despite this delineation of colour, with the red to denote the wall and the orange and black to denote the tablecloth and table respectively, there is a sense of harmony to the composition. The black of the bottle and the pattern of the tablecloth are reflected in the print of the bowl whilst the orange of the table is replicated in the succulent mandarins. It is likely that the oil paints used for the vibrant orange is a mixture of Rowney; brands of paint that Fedden preferred.

Provenance

Castlegate Fine Art, York;
Private Collection, United Kingdom

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Biography

Mary Fedden was born in Bristol, and attended the city’s Badminton School, until she left at age sixteen, to study at the Slade School of Art, from 1932 to 1936. After leaving the college she lived between London and Bristol, and made a living teaching, painting portraits and producing stage designs for Sadler’s Wells and the Arts Theatre. At the outbreak of the Second World War, Fedden served in the Land Army and the Woman’s Voluntary Service and was commissioned to produce murals for the war effort. In 1944 she was sent abroad as a driver for the Navy, Army and Air Force Institutes.  After the war, she returned to easel painting and developed her individual style of still life painting, partially inspired by Modern painters such as Matisse and Braque.

 

In 1951 Mary Fedden married the artist Julian Trevelyan, whom she had met before the war. They took a studio on the Thames River at Chiswick, where Fedden lived and worked until she passed away. Together, Trevelyan and Fedden travelled widely and even collaborated on a mural commission for Charing Cross Hospital. Fedden received several other commissions for murals, most importantly from the Festival of Britain (1951), the P & O Liner, Canberra (1961) as well as from schools and hospitals.

 

In 1955, in an article in ‘The Artist’ magazine, Fedden wrote: “I really float from influence to influence. I found the early Ben Nicholson’s fascinating as were the paintings of his wife Winifred. I also admire the Scottish artist Anne Redpath and the French painter Henri Hayden.”

 

From 1958-1964 Fedden taught at the Royal College of Art and was the first female tutor in the Painting School. Her pupils included David Hockney and Allen Jones. Subsequently, Fedden taught at the Yehudi Menuhin School in Surrey, and was elected Royal Academician. From 1984 to 1988 she was President of the Royal West of England Academy. She was awarded an honorary doctorate from the University of Bath, as well as the University of Durham, and an O.B.E. for her work.