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Mary Fedden Painting since the fifties.

May 5, 2011

At the age of 16 Mary left Bristol and moved to London to study at The Slade School of Art.

© Mary Fedden c/o Portland Gallery

From 1936 she began her career as an artist painting theatrical sets for a number of prominent theatres.

During the war years she served in both the Land Army and Woman’s Voluntary Service and in 1944

was sent abroad as a driver. She was also involved in designing propaganda posters for the war effort.

© Mary Fedden c/o Portland Gallery

In the early 1950’s together with her husband the well-respected artist Julian Trevelyan (1910 – 1988)

she travelled extensively throughout Europe, America, India and Africa. Once she had settled back into

life in England she accepted a prestigious teaching job at the Royal College of Art (1958 – 1964)

and became the first female tutor to teach painting. During her time at the RCA, she taught an elite

generation of art students including David Hockney, R.B Kitaj and Patrick Caulfield.

She also at this period enjoyed many friendships with aspiring (and now prominent) artists.

After this well-respected teaching position she began to teach at the newly founded Yehudi Menuhin

School for gifted Musicians.

” Sometimes people comment that a certain object doesn’t look a bit like the real thing. I’m glad it doesn’t

I prefer to use my imagination and change things around, I am not after a representational image.

Generally I start by placing a shape tentatively in the composition, but if it doesn’t take form

and begin to interest me, then I drop it and move on to something else.”

© Mary Fedden c/o Portland Gallery

Fedden’s career has a notably domestic undertone; exhibitions in furniture shops, regular magazine

commissions, set designs, and ultimately the embracing of a habitually ‘homely’ subject matter.

This year she has designed products for the Royal Academy shop and also for the popular

kitchenware brand, ‘Emma Bridgewater.’ Despite being in her nineties she continues to paint

everyday and is said to be painting more “prolifically than ever”.

“As well as coming from my sketchbooks, or from particular objects that interest me,

ideas might come from talking to people or looking at things,” Mary says, “and other ideas

for paintings come to me in bed. Also, sometimes people put things through my letterbox if

they think I might be interested in them.”

© Mary Fedden c/o Portland Gallery

Her work features in many major art collections around the world and she has had work in prominent

exhibitions at both the Tate and the Royal Academy of Arts.

She was deservedly elected a Royal Academician in 1992.

Later this year there is an new Mary Fedden exhibition of Oils and Watercolours at the

Portland Gallery in London  running from 8th June until the  24th June. It is a selling

exhibition of oil, watercolours, gouaches and drawings.

© Mary Fedden c/o Portland Gallery

The show will include early works as well as examples of Fedden’s recent work. Mary has kindly agreed

to lend a few of her stunning travel sketchbooks to the exhibition. These books, dating back to the 1950s’

include drawings and watercolours of scenes all over Europe, in India, Malta, Jordan and Morocco.

© Mary Fedden c/o Portland Gallery

More of her work can be seen here and an interview here.

Update 24th June 2012.

So sad to hear that this wonderful lady passed away two days ago aged 96. A lovely tribute was posted here in The Telegraph.

8 Comments leave one →
  1. May 5, 2011 1:45 pm

    Lovely work by this artist. How wonderful that she is in her nineties and painting prolifically – inspiring!

  2. May 5, 2011 7:33 pm

    Thanks for reminding me just how much I love Mary’s work.

  3. May 8, 2011 3:51 pm

    Just found your blog via a link on Mousenote blog. LOVE this post about Mary Fedden. I read and wrote about her a few months back but there were still things here that I didn’t know and paintings I’ve not seen before. Thanks for the heads up about the exhibition too. I hadn’t heard about it living in the wilds of Birmingham as I do!!

    • May 8, 2011 4:59 pm

      Thanks Claire, you also have some lovely work on your site. I can see why you’d like Mary’s work too. She’s an inspiration to us all I think. Welcome to my blog too, feel free to chip in as and when you’d like. 🙂

  4. June 26, 2012 2:15 pm

    I shared your post on my ‘Arts Hut’ Facebook page. What a great collection of her work to celebrate her contribution to painting. Many thanks

    • June 26, 2012 2:23 pm

      Thanks for sharing Anna, what lovely paintings you do too. Glad to have you onboard as it were 🙂

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