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Mary Fedden - Pink Roses

Mary Fedden

Pink Roses

Oil on canvas: 20(h) x 16(w) in / 50.8(h) x 40.6(w) cm
Signed and dated 1997

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BY 130

 

MARY FEDDEN

 Bristol 1915 - 2012 London

 

Pink roses

 

Signed and dated lower left: Fedden 1997

Oil on canvas: 19¼ x 15½ in / 48.9 x 39.4 cm

Frame size: 27 ¼ x 22 ⅞ in / 69.2 x 58.1 cm

 

Provenance:

Private collection, UK, acquired from the artist

 

From the 1950s onwards, there is a distinctive streak of neo-romanticism that runs through Mary Fedden’s work that is poignantly captured in the soft, blush tones of the present painting, Pink roses. Fedden renders this balanced composition in a light palette, with champagne pink pastels and Tuscan creams evenly layered throughout, the blooming bouquet in the foreground complementing the open fields that lie expansive beyond. In a spectrum of earthy, golden browns, Fedden harmoniously composes a wide, mountainous landscape, with tall peaks rising from rounded hills that harks back to the poetic, visionary landscapes of Samuel Palmer and The Ancients; her construction of space in this Mediterranean vista is nuanced and wildly captivating. In Pink roses, a work executed in close proximity to a new century, a new millennium; Fedden intertwines two traditional genres, still life and landscape painting, with a romantic sense of nostalgia. In his book British Romantic Artists, artist John Piper summarises his subject in a way that aligns with Fedden’s observations:

 

‘Romantic art deals with the particular. The particularisation of Bewick about a bird’s wing, of Turner about a waterfall or a hill town; or of Rosetti about Elizabeth Siddall, is the result of a vision that can see in these things something significant beyond ordinary significance: something that for a moment seems to contain the whole world; and when the moment is past, carries over some comment on life or experience besides the comment on appearances.’[1]

 

In the case of Mary Fedden, the artist is simultaneously fascinated with pairings, the act of uniting rare and uniquely beautiful aspects of life within her pictorial space. In Pink roses, it is the titular flower and an idyllic hillside scene, still life and landscape depicted in tranquil symbiosis. Christopher Andreae suggests that the boldness of form Fedden conveys in her flower paintings is reminiscent of British painter and plantsman, Cedric Morris (1889–1982); further stating that neither artist makes their flowers ‘too pretty or sentimental’: ‘Painted with delicacy and an obvious pleasure in their form, colour and markings, Fedden’s flowers also have a convincing tactility and weight.’[2] However, in this rare example, Fedden’s statuesque roses command a genuine, emotional response.

 

 

MARY FEDDEN

 Bristol 1915 - 2012 London

 

Born in Bristol in 1915, Mary Fedden studied at the Slade School of Art in London from 1932 to 1936 and during the war painted sets for the Arts Theatre in Great Newport Street, London.  At the end of the war, Fedden began to paint in earnest developing her own personal style which owed much to the influence of the French and Russian modernists.  In 1951 she married the British artist Julian Trevelyan and they devoted themselves to art and travel.  Her paintings throughout the 1950s were greatly influenced by her husband and they collaborated on a number of occasions often being commissioned to paint murals together.

 

By the start of the 1960s, Fedden was beginning to formulate her own unique style using pure, vibrant colours.  From 1958 to 1964 she was a tutor at the Royal College of Art where her pupils included David Hockney and Allen Jones, then from 1965 until 1970, she taught at the Yehudi Menuhin School at Cobham in Surrey.

 

Mary Fedden was best known for her bold, vivid still lifes and her colourful views of Italy and North Africa.  Her work was touched by a unique naïveté and she will remain one of Britain’s best loved artists.  She continued to work from the studio in Hammersmith that she shared with her husband (who died in 1988) well into her nineties.

 

 

 

Biographical Chronology

 

1915       Born in Bristol on 14th August

1932       Commenced studies at the Slade School of Art, London, where she was inspired by her

               tutor, Vladimir Polunin and met Julian Trevelyan for the first time

1936       Graduated from Slade School of Art, London and returned to her native Bristol to teach

1939-44  Moved to London and joined the Land Army and the Women’s Voluntary Service

1944       Called up and sent to Europe as a driver for the Navy, Army and Air Force Institutes

1946       Returned to London, buying a house in Redcliffe Road with Maise Meiklejohn

1947       First one-woman exhibition at the Mansard Gallery in Heal’s Department Store, which led

               to a three year commission to paint the covers of Woman magazine

1949       Travelled through Europe with the artist Julian Trevelyan. On their return to London they       

settled together in Trevelyan’s home and studio by the Thames at Durham Wharf,    Chiswick

1951       Married Julian Trevelyan

   Painted a mural for the children’s section in the Television pavilion on the South Bank at    

   the Festival of Britain

1958-64     Taught at the Royal College of Art, London where she was the first female tutor in the

               Painting School, her pupils including David Hockney, Allen Jones and Patrick

               Caulfield

1961       Commissioned to paint a mural for the P&O liner Canberra

1965-70  Taught at the Yehudi Menuhin School, Surrey

1980       Painted mural for Charing Cross Hospital with Julian Trevelyan

1984-88  President of Royal West of England Academy, Bristol

1985       Painted a mural for Colindale Hospital

1988       Death of Julian Trevelyan

1992       Elected Royal Academician in the Senior Order

1995       Publication of Mary Fedden written by Mel Gooding 

1996       Received an Honorary Doctorate of Literature from the University of Bath

1997       Awarded OBE

2007       Publication of Mary Fedden. Enigmas and Variations by Christopher Andreae

2012       Died in Chiswick on 22nd June

 

 

Select Bibliography

 

Mel Gooding, Mary Fedden, Scolar Press, 1995

Christopher Andreae, Mary Fedden, Enigmas and Variations, Lund Humphries, 2007

José Manser, Mary Fedden and Julian Trevelyan: Life and Art by the River Thames, Unicorn Press Ltd, London, 2012

 

Illustrated books

Suzannah Amoore, Motley the Cat, Viking, London, 1997

Jane Gardam, The green man: an eternity, The Windrush Press, Moreton-in-Marsh, 1998

Mary Fedden with foreword by Mel Gooding, Birds, The Windrush Press, Moreton-in-Marsh, 1999

 

 

Works by Mary Fedden can be found in the following public collections:

 

Abbot Hall Art Gallery, Kendal, Cumbria

Birmingham Museums and Art Gallery

Bristol Museum and Art Gallery

Chelsea and Westminster Health Charity

Contemporary Art Society

Derbyshire & Derby School Library Service

Durham University

Government Art Collection

Gracefield Arts Centre, Dumfries and Galloway Council

Guildford House Gallery

Herbert Art Gallery & Museum. Coventry

Hereford Museum and Art Gallery

HM The Queen

Imperial College Healthcare Charity Art Collection, St Mary’s Hospital, London

Lucy Cavendish Collection, Cambridge

National Gallery of New Zealand

National Assembly for Wales / Ty Hywel

National Museum of Wales / Amgueddfa Cymru, Cardiff 

The New Art Gallery Walsall

New Hall Art Collection, Murray Edwards College, University of Cambridge

Newnham College, University of Cambridge

Newport Museum and Art Gallery

Nuffield College, University of Oxford

Open University

Otter Gallery, University of Chichester

Pallant House Gallery, Chichester

Pembroke College Oxford JCR Art Collection

Peterborough Museum & Art Gallery

Reading Museum & Town Hall

Royal Academy of Arts, London

Royal West of England Academy, Bristol

Museums Sheffield

Southampton City Art Gallery

Swindon Art Gallery

Tate Britain

Tulie House Museum and Art Gallery Trust, Carlisle

Mead Gallery, University of Warwick

University of Bath

University College London Hospitals

University of Leeds Gallery Art Collection and Gallery

University of York

Victoria Art Gallery, Bath

Whitworth Art Gallery, University of Manchester

Williamson Art Gallery & Museum, Wirral

York Museums Trust

 

 

[1] John Piper, British Romantic Artists, (London: Collins, 1942), p.7.

[2] Christopher Andreae, Mary Fedden: Enigmas and Variations, (Aldershot: Lund Humphries, 2007), p.124.