Still Life with Pear, Melon and Grape, 2006

by Mary Fedden

£29,500

DIMENSIONS: (unframed) 19.75 x 19.75 ins
50.17 x 50.17cms
SIGNATURE: Signed and dated lower left
MEDIUM: Oil on canvas

Still Life with Pear, Melon and Grapes is a painting by British artist Mary Fedden. Born in 1915, Fedden had a lifelong passion for art and left school at the age of sixteen to study at the Slade School of Art under the theatre designer Vladimir Polunin. Following her tutor’s lead, Fedden went on to work as a set painter at Sadler’s Wells and the Arts Theatre in Great Newport Street in London.

This painting reveals Fedden’s career-long preoccupation with still life painting; a genre that she described as her ‘real love’. While the subject may be a traditional one, with a well established place in art history, Fedden rejected the classical origins of the genre with its symbolic significance and realistic representations; instead, Fedden followed the example of earlier Modernists such as Pablo Picasso and Paul Cezanne who strove to break its formal stereotypes, reducing the subjects to their basic forms. Fedden always denied the symbolic significance of the objects in her still life paintings, instead seeing them simply as items that she enjoyed painting.

Catalogue No: 3174 Categories: ,

Still Life with Pear, Melon and Grapes is a painting by British artist Mary Fedden. Born in 1915, Fedden had a lifelong passion for art and left school at the age of sixteen to study at the Slade School of Art under the theatre designer Vladimir Polunin. Following her tutor’s lead, Fedden went on to work as a set painter at Sadler’s Wells and the Arts Theatre in Great Newport Street in London.

This painting reveals Fedden’s career-long preoccupation with still life painting; a genre that she described as her ‘real love’. While the subject may be a traditional one, with a well established place in art history, Fedden rejected the classical origins of the genre with its symbolic significance and realistic representations; instead, Fedden followed the example of earlier Modernists such as Pablo Picasso and Paul Cezanne who strove to break its formal stereotypes, reducing the subjects to their basic forms. Fedden always denied the symbolic significance of the objects in her still life paintings, instead seeing them simply as items that she enjoyed painting.

Fedden’s interest in the objects she painted is evident in Still Life with Pear, Melon and Grapes where the items on the table are the focus of the piece; their dark green and browns, and bright yellow and oranges contrast strongly against the rich red of the table and the background. As earlier noted, Fedden painted in the Modernist style which rejected realistic representation in favour for a more stylised form. The table and background have been flattened out into two separate planes; any suggestion of one resting on the other has been removed, together with any indication of texture or depth. The same applies to Fedden’s depiction of the fruit: the melons have become two-dimensional discs, much like the bowl in which the grapes, pear and lemons lie, even though in reality natural fruit is markedly different to a man-made dish. In this type of art, the viewer is given enough of an indication of reality to figure out the composition and its contents for themselves.

Fedden’s work is owned by a number of prestigious galleries and companies including Tate Modern and P&O. But perhaps her finest accomplishments include her career at the Royal College of Art, where she taught the young David Hockney and Allen Jones, her O.B.E and, finally, her election to the Royal Academy.

Private Collection, United Kingdom

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Mary Fedden left school to study at the Slade School of Art at the age of sixteen. After leaving the college she made a living teaching, painting portraits and producing stage designs for Sadlers 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, Fedden returned to easel painting and developed her individual style of still life painting. 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.1951 Mary Fedden married the artist Julian Trevelyan who she had met before the war. They took a studio on the Thames River at Chiswick, where Fedden, lived and worked there 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.

From 1958-1964 she taught at the Royal College of Art and was appointed the first female tutor in the Painting School. Her pupils included David Hockney and Allen Jones. Subsequently, Fedden taught at the Yehudi Menuhin School 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 and an O.B.E. for her work.

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