This painting is a work by Mary Fedden, who enjoyed a stellar career, spanning most of the 20th Century. In this sensitive depiction of a Jay, Fedden has captured the character of this little bird with her delicate colour palette. This piece was painted in the same year that Fedden was elected a Royal Academician in the Senior Order.
Birds are a common theme in Mary Fedden’s paintings. They feature over and again, whether incidental or as the main focal point of a work. In 1999, Mary Fedden published Birds, a little book showcasing a wonderful collection of original watercolours inspired by one of her favourite subjects. In the foreword to the book, Mel Gooding, author and critic, writes “Mary Fedden’s birds are not the birds of the guide book and handbook, schematically delineated for use in the identification, or those of the great ornithological albums, such as those of Audubon, Gould or Thorburn, whose subjects are described with the definitive accuracy of scientist and the grace of the gifted enthusiast. They are the birds of her life, casually seen and enjoyed in gardens and parks, encountered with joy on a holiday walk by the sea, glimpsed from a window on the familiar river and its muddy banks, or found with unabashed pleasure in guidebooks or albums. They are, in the true sense of the word, appropriated: that is to say, taken out of nature and of art, and made her own.
“Their nests and eggs were never seen but in these paintings. Fedden’s birds are never symbolic, and only in the most general sense emblematic, as, inescapably, all birds are in our culture. They spring to a poetic life of their own in her paintings. I know of no one who knows and loves birds in nature, amongst the most dedicated of birdwatchers and the most assiduous of ornithologists, who does not love Fedden’s birds for their quickness and quiddity in her art.”