14 August 1915|
|Died||22 June 2012(aged 96)|
Sometimes mistakenly described as the daughter of Roy Fedden (who was in fact her uncle, as was Romilly Fedden), Mary Fedden was born in Bristol where she attended the city's Badminton School. She studied at the Slade School of Fine Arts, London from 1932 to 1936. She then returned to Bristol where she painted and taught until World War II broke out. After the war was over, Fedden developed her own style of flower paintings and still lifes, reminiscent of artists such as Matisse and Braque. 
In 1951, Mary Fedden married the artist Julian Trevelyan. She went on to teach painting at the Royal College of Art from 1956 to 1964, the first woman tutor to teach in the Painting School. Her pupils included David Hockney and Allen Jones. She subsequently taught at the Yehudi Menuhin School in Cobham, Surrey, from 1965 to 1970.
Style and Influences
In 1995, she acknowledged in an interview in The Artist magazine:
I really float from influence to influence…. I found the early Ben Nicholsons fascinating as were the paintings of his wife Winifred. I also admire the Scottish artist Anne Redpath and the French painter Henri Hayden.
Fedden’s subjects are often executed in a bold, expressive style with vivid and contrasting colours, although her work of 2005-6 uses a narrower tonal range. Her still lifes are often placed in front of a landscape, as she enjoyed the contrasting of disparate, even quirky elements. When using watercolours she emphasised the rough texture of her favourite Indian papers.
Exhibitions, commissions and collections
Fedden exhibited in one-person shows throughout the UK every year from 1950 until her death in 2012. These included the Redfern Gallery, London from 1953, the New Grafton Gallery, London from the 1960s, the Hamet Gallery from 1970, the Arnolfini Gallery, Bristol, Bohun Gallery, Henley on Thames from 1984 and at the Beaux Arts Gallery, London in the 1990s. A major exhibition of her work was held at the Royal West of England Academy in 1996.
She also received several commissions for murals, notably the Festival of Britain in 1951, the P&O liner Canberra in 1961, Charing Cross Hospital in 1980 (along with her husband, the artist Julian Trevelyan), Colindale Hospital in 1985, and for schools in Bristol, Hertfordshire and London. Her work can be found in numerous public and private collections such as the Chantrey Bequest for the Tate Gallery, Contemporary Art Society, and the City art galleries of Carlisle, Hull, Bristol, Edinburgh and Sheffield. In 2008 the Portland Gallery held a major retrospective for Fedden with 125 paintings spanning six decades.
In 1995 the writer and critic Mel Gooding wrote a monograph on her work tracing her long career up to her marriage to Julian Trevelyan and their life together on the Thames at Chiswick, London. In 2007, a second book on Fedden written by Christopher Andreae was published, tracing her whole career up to 2006.
From 1984, Fedden held the post of President of the RWA, up until 1988, the same year her husband Julian Trevelyan died. She is an academician of the Royal Academy and has received an honorary doctorate from the University of Bath. She has also received an O.B.E. and an honorary degree from the University of Durham (2009) for her work.
For many years, Fedden was a close friend of the former television presenter, Anna Ford. Fedden remained a prolific and popular painter until her death in 2012. She continued to live and work in the studio she shared with her husband from the 1940s on the River Thames, London, She died, aged 96, in London.
Fedden was represented by Portland Gallery. Bohun Gallery, Henley on Thames continue to exhibit her paintings regularly. A selection of signed limited edition prints are available from Aquarelle Publishing Ltd. Mary Fedden, Enigmas and Variations is a book about the artist by Christopher Andreae.