Mary FEDDEN 1915 - 2012
RA, RWA, OBE
BiographyMary Fedden was born in Bristol and although she spent large amounts of time in London, she always maintained contact with her home town, especially through her association with the Royal West of England Academy.
During WWII she served in the Land Army, working fields with a horse-drawn harrow, and the Woman's Voluntary Service and was commissioned to produce murals for the war effort. In 1944 she was sent abroad as a driver for the Navy, Army and Air Force Institutes.
She studied at Slade School of Art where she met the painter and printmaker Julian Trevelyan, whom she married in 1951.
Despite the vogue for abstract expressionism in the late 1950s, her work was often said to echo the muted finesse of the artwork of Ben Nicholson, whom she often acknowledged in her titles, she remained rooted in the European tradition of belle peinture, in its literal translation: a middle-class sweetness of subject elevated beyond sentimentality by its exactness in drawing, nice judgment of texture and freshness derived from high artifice. Fedden's painting until this time was of recognisably the English post-romanticism tradition which was so prevalent after the war in the work of painters such as John Piper and Graham Sutherland.
Under Trevelyan's tuition, her work began to show the influences of Braque and Matisse in its organisation of flat picture planes and separate still-life objects. She developed a line and texture moving between softness and such incisiveness that they look as sharp as though they have come from his etching press.
From 1956 to 1964 she taught at the Royal College of Art, where she was the first female tutor, and where her pupils included David Hockney.
Her work is held in collections all over the world, including those of the Queen and the Tate. She was elected a royal academician in 1992, and made OBE in 1997.