Skip to main content

Mary Fedden

Born 1915 Bristol. Died 2012

Aware from an early age that she wanted to be a painter, 16 year-old Mary Fedden began her education in fine art at the Slade School of Art, London, in 1932. In 1936, Fedden returned to Bristol where she remained until after the Second World War, continuing to experiment with a variety of styles and subject matter. Her marriage to painter and etcher Julian Trevelyan in 1951 led to a stimulating creative collaboration of artistic and social interests. In 1958 she was appointed lecturer in painting at the Royal College of Art, the College's first woman tutor.

Mary Fedden's work focuses on familiar - often domestic - subject matter. The combined use of vivid colours, bold patterns, rounded angles and flattened forms creates the illusion of effortless simplicity. This style draws inspiration from Matisse, whose still life paintings had a profound impact on Fedden as early as 1946. Fedden's mature work of the 1970s reflects the subsequent refinement and adaptation of this initial influence into a powerful visual language, instantly identifiable as her own. Here, lingering traces of chiaroscuro and gentle colour variation give way completely to the dramatic 'staging' of bright objects and flat spaces.

This work is imbued with more than decorative grace. A metaphysical quality pervades even the simplest- or perhaps especially the simplest- of Fedden's work. For Fedden, reality is not what we see, it is that which lies behind the subject matter of perception, structuring its significance. A curious visual distillation of form and colour, Fedden's art functions as a symbolic paring down of the complex reality of everyday experience into its joyous essence.

Best known for her principal subject of the still life with a view beyond, influenced by the work of Paul Nash, Ben and Winifred Nicholson, Fedden's work includes lithographs, collages and murals.

For more information on individual paintings see http://www.tate.org.uk.

Mary Fedden, by Mel Gooding, Aldershot, Hants 1995 gives an excellent overview of Fedden's artistic career.

Mules in Tuscany
Butterflies and Fruit
Cappadocian (Blue)
Jug and Eggs
Julian's Mug