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Sold at Auction: Mary Fedden

(1915-2012)
Painter

Biography

Bold, expressive and imbued with a satisfying tension, Mary Fedden’s kitchen-table still-life paintings feature jugs and vases of flowers rendered in vivid, contrasting colours.

Between 1932 and 1936, Fedden studied under the theatre designer Vladimir Polunin at the Slade School of Art in London, and one of her first paid jobs was producing stage designs for Sadler’s Wells Theatre and the Arts Theatre. During the Second World War, she was commissioned to produce patriotic murals.

She developed her signature still-life style after the war, and admitted to being inspired at various times by the early works of Ben Nicholson, Picasso and Braque. Yet there was also a surreal quality to her art, in which objects were suspended against strangely hallucinatory backgrounds. Unsurprisingly, Fedden was often in demand as an illustrator.

Married to the charismatic printmaker Julian Trevelyan (1910-1988), Fedden had to work hard to get noticed by the English avant-garde, despite exhibiting in solo shows throughout the United Kingdom every year from 1950 until her death.

From 1958 to 1964 she taught at the Royal College of Art, where her pupils included David Hockney and Allen Jones. The artists she counted among her friends included Eileen Agar, Henry Moore, John Piper and Ceri Richards.

In 1992, she was elected to the Royal Academy. ‘I’ve always said my life has been ruled by great luck over small things,’ she said in later life.
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