Mary Fedden (1915 – 2012)
Mary Fedden was born in Bristol in 1915, leaving school at the age of sixteen to study at the Slade School of Art. After leaving the Slade 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 Mary 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. In an article in ‘The Artist’ magazine, she 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’.
In 1951 Mary Fedden married the artist Julian Trevelyan whom she had met before the war. They took a studio at Durham Wharf overlooking the Thames River at Chiswick, where she lived and worked until her death. Together, Julian and Mary travelled widely and even collaborated on a mural commission for Charing Cross Hospital. She 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. From 1984 to 1988 she was President of the Royal West of England Academy and was awarded an honorary doctorate from the University of Bath before being elected to the RA in 1992. Her work is in the collections of HM the Queen, the West of England Academy, the Tate Gallery and the Contemporary Art Society.
Her estate is represented by the Portland Gallery who, in 2008, held a retrospective exhibition of over one hundred of her paintings spanning six decades.
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