Life and work
Adshead was born in London, the only child of Stanley Davenport Adshead, architect, watercolourist, and Professor of Civic Design first at Liverpool, and later at London University, and his wife Mary. Mary Adshead enrolled at the Slade School in 1921 under Henry Tonks, who recognised her ability and arranged her first mural commission in Wapping, working with Rex Whistler. Her next mural, carried out in 1924, was for Professor Charles Reilly at Liverpool. Fortuitously it still exists on display at Liverpool University.
Another commission was for Lord Beaverbrook's Newmarket house. Her mandate was to decorate his dining-room with Newmarket racing scenes and portraits of his friends, such as Arnold Bennett, Lady Louis Mountbatten, and Winston Churchill, on their way to the racecourse. The project was never completed as Beaverbrook became concerned that he would be daily faced with the portraits if he ever fell out with any of them.
Her first solo exhibition was held in 1930 at the Goupil Gallery. Working with her husband, she illustrated two children's books. She designed some pictorial issues of stamps for the GPO in 1949, followed by the 2s 6d and 5s high value definitive stamps in 1951, and she designed the frame around the portrait of Queen Elizabeth II on the 8d, 9d, 10d and 11d Wilding series definitive stamps. In 1950 she decorated the fourth-floor restaurant of Selfridge's with jungle scenes. Despite her busy work schedule, she also found time to organise the Society of Mural Painters.
Her paintings are in many public gallery collections including The Tate, The Graves Art gallery Sheffield, The Imperial War Museum, Manchester City Art Gallery, The London Transport Museum and The University Art gallery Liverpool. There are also several surviving mural paintings.
An exhibition of her work was held at The University of Liverpool Art Gallery (21 Jan-29 Apr 2005), Graves Art Gallery Sheffield (25 Jun-17 Sept 2005) and Kingston upon Thames Art Gallery (1 Oct - 19 Nov 2005).
- Matthew H. Clough, Ann Compton. Earthly delights: Mary Adshead, 1904-1995 (University of Liverpool Art Gallery, 2004)
- Mary Adshead - website (www.maryadshead.co.uk/)
- Mary Adshead biography (London atelier of representational art)
- Mary Adshead biography (Le Point, Cucuron, Provence)
- Mary Adshead - posters and artwork (London Transport museum)