Mary Fedden | From Influence To OBE
‘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.’ – Mary Fedden
Photo Credit: National Portrait Gallery
Mary Fedden was born in Bristol on 14th August 1915. 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. 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 on 12th June 2012. 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 1958 was appointed the first female tutor at the Royal College of Art and taught for 6 years, where her pupils included David Hockney and Allen Jones. In 1992 Fedden became an academician of the Royal Academy and has received an honorary doctorate from the University of Bath as well as an O.B.E. for her work.
Fedden is renowned for her unique perspective and a great talent for finding beauty in the everyday. 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. Fedden developed her own style of flower paintings and still lifes, reminiscent of artists such as Matisse and Braque.
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.
DIMENSIONS: (unframed) 7.1 x 5.9 ins/ 18.0 x 15.0 cm
SIGNATURE: Signed ‘Fedden’ and dated (lower left)
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Fedden loved to travel with her husband, Julian Trevelyan, and in the late 1960’s she went to India and stayed with the Maharaja of Bharatpur who owned the most wonderful bird sanctuary, with fantastic birds.
This work is from 1995 however, Mary liked to paint from memories and sketches that she had made on site. We believe this to be from her Indian travels from the most exotic figures in the foreground, her typical use of pattern in the rug and the beautiful delicate handing of the kestrel.