Mary Fedden RA: New Paintings
Until 19 September 2007
In the Sir Hugh Casson Room for Friends of the Royal Academy
Open to the public daily, 4-6pm, Fridays until 10pm.
Mary Fedden, Still Life by the Sea, 2006. Oil on canvas
Mary Fedden RA was born, in Bristol, during World War I. Now, in 2007, she is still painting with vigour and delight.
Mary loved painting from early childhood. It was the only activity she remembers enjoying at school. As a twelve year old she visited an uncle in France who was a painter. She immediately knew the artist’s life was the life for her. She went to the Slade in London when she was 17, and contemplated making a career out of stage design. Instead, when she eventually had to return home to Bristol (weeping on the train), she started to teach art.
World War II was the only period in her life that she was prevented from painting. Since then she has been increasingly – remarkably – prolific. She became known for her murals, but it was the privacy of painting alone at the easel that really appealed, and this has been her way of working ever since. She paints (and makes collages) only in her studio. But when away from home (and she has been an inveterate traveller) she draws in sketchbooks with sure economy and ease. These drawings later inspire or stimulate some of her studio work.
From 1949, it was her husband Julian Trevelyan who encouraged her to bring her art into the modern century, though she always kept her individuality. Trevelyan himself painted no more than two or three still lifes. But still life is what Fedden loves most, and it has become the genre she is best known for. Favourite objects are dotted around in her studio and are the rudiments of her vision, some of them surprisingly ordinary, others decidedly curious. Inside the boundaries of her pictures these curiosities gather happily, transformed into affectionately painted forms.
Mary invests her pictures (landscapes and small figure paintings, too) with a mystique, a kind of friendly surreality. An oddly patterned gourd fraternises with an earthenware bottle and the pepper pot head of a seed pod, a dead white fish, lushly painted, with the orange firework display of an almost benevolently erupting volcano. What do these things mean? At first these ordered pictures seem perfectly familiar and explicable. But they turn out to be actually quite strange.
In Fedden’s recent work, her pictorial world is painted with a determined, deliberate stylisation and a formal clarity that is strongly her own.
Christopher Andreae, April 2007
- This exhibition presents 20 new paintings by Mary Fedden RA. All of the works from this exhibition have now sold.
- The exhibition coincides with the launch of a new book by Christopher Andreae titled Mary Fedden: Enigmas and Variations. This book is available for sale in the Academy shop and is published by Lund Humphries.