Floral Still Life, 1946

by Mary Fedden


DIMENSIONS: (unframed) 20 x 16 inches (50.8 x 40.6 cm)
SIGNATURE: Signed and dated (lower right)
MEDIUM: Oil on canvas

This is a still life painted by Mary Fedden in a more academic style than her later works, evidencing her technical talent for depth and tonality. The composition is of a vase filled with flowers and foliage, painted over a background of various hues of natural blues and greens.

Born in Bristol in 1915, Mary Fedden is renowned for her unique perspective and great talent for finding beauty in the everyday.


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    Catalogue No: 5989 Categories: ,

    This piece was painted in 1946, the year Mary Fedden was able to resume easel painting after the second world war. Her first solo exhibition followed the next year at the Mansard Gallery in Heal’s Department Store, where several of her still life flower paintings were displayed.

    She worked with bold palettes and simplified shapes, carefully orchestrating her still life compositions to draw out the extraordinary from ordinary objects. In fact, it was her constant progression and development throughout her career that makes her overall body of work so interesting; from her earlier pieces playing with colour, perspective, and patterns to her later work experimenting with light, texture, and crisper, cleaner lines.

    Fedden developed her own style of flower paintings and still lifes, reminiscent of artists such as Matisse and Braque.

    In 1995, she acknowledged in an interview in The Artist magazine: ‘I really float from influence to influence…. I found the early Ben Nicholsons fascinating as were the paintings of his wife Winifred. I also admire the Scottish artist Anne Redpath and the French painter Henri Hayden.’

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    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.

    If the artwork is up to £25,00 in value, and the artist is still alive, Trinity House can arrange a 0% interest loan through the Own Art scheme. Own Art is a Creative United initiative supported by Arts Council England, Creative Scotland and Arts Council of Northern Ireland. Some other restrictions apply see…


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