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Mary Fedden was born in Bristol and wanted to be a painter even as a child. Leaving Badminton School at sixteen, she studied at the Slade School of Art in London from 1932 to 1936 under the theatre designer Vladimir Polunin.
She held her first exhibition at the Mansard Gallery in Heal’s Department Store in 1947, showing a number of still life and flower paintings. She was subsequently commissioned to paint covers for Woman magazine. In 1949 she moved to Durham Wharf, a complex of studios on the Thames at Chiswick, where she still lived until her death in 2012. In 1951 she married the artist Julian Trevelyan, whom she had met before the war. Together they travelled in Europe, Africa, India, Russia and America. Since 1946 Mary Fedden painted prolifically and had regular exhibitions at the Redfern Gallery, the New Grafton Gallery and many other galleries throughout Britain. She painted murals for the Television pavilion at the 1951 Festival of Britain. From the late 1950s she taught painting at the Royal College of Art, the first woman tutor to teach in the Painting School. Her pupils included David Hockney and Allen Jones. In 1992 she was elected to the Royal Academy and she was a member of the Royal West of England Academy at Bristol since the mid-1930s, serving as its President from 1984 to 1988.
Fedden’s subjects are often executed in a bold, expressive style with vivid and contrasting colours. Her still life paintings are what she was best known for, with those of cats becoming the most collectable of the genre as well as her landscapes of Morocco.