Mary Fedden

Born in Bristol, 1915, Fedden attended the Badger School before leaving at the age of seventeen for the Slade School of Fine Art, London. She studied under the Ballet Russes theatre designer Vladimir Polunin and painted sets herself for performances at Sadlers Wells, but did not pursue this; instead she returned to Bristol to teach art and to paint portraits. Once war broke out, Fedden served in the Land Army and Women’s Voluntary Service. She returned to London and produced propaganda murals, but she also set up as a stage painter for the Arts Theatre in Great Newport Street. She was then sent abroad and worked as a driver for the NAAFI (Navy, Army and Air Force Institutes).

After the War, Fedden continued her portrait painting, and in 1947 held a first exhibition at the Mansard Gallery in Heal’s Department Store. She moved to Durham Wharf, where she would stay, and soon after she married the artist Julian Trevelyan. The couple travelled extensively, to Africa, India, Russia and America, and throughout Europe, and the work of both artists reflects these travels.

Fedden had regular exhibitions at the Redfern and the New Grafton Gallery, and she taught painting at the Royal College of Art. She was elected a Royal Academician in 1992, and she was a member of the Royal West of England Academy at Bristol, and it’s President, from 1984-1988.

Fedden’s work is often executed in a strong expressive style. She once remarked: ‘Each of my paintings is a mixture of things that I’m looking at, and my thoughts and imagination’. She uses strong contrasting colours to depict still lives, mostly of objects on tables, and often with landscapes in the background.

Fedden’s work is widely collected, and held in major public collections around the world. She died in 2012, her work widely and critically acclaimed.

Public Collections holding works by Mary Fedden:

Tate Gallery, London; Reading Museum, Reading.

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