A painter’s par­adise

Country Life Every Week - - Town & Country -

AMARRIAGE that blazed with tal­ent’ will be hon­oured in a Sotheby’s sale, on Novem­ber 23, of some 90 works by and from the col­lec­tion of Ju­lian Trevelyan and Mary Fed­den, two of Bri­tain’s best-loved painters, writes Ari­ane Bankes.

will go to­wards restor­ing and re­de­vel­op­ing their stu­dio-home—durham Wharf, Ham­mer­smith, London W6—into artists’ workspaces, cre­at­ing a haven for a new gen­er­a­tion of painters, mu­si­cians, film-mak­ers and de­sign­ers and thereby con­tin­u­ing the cre­ative en­ter­prise that de­fined it for nearly a cen­tury.

The scheme is in the hands of Assem­ble, the Turner Prize-win­ning ar­chi­tects’ col­lec­tive, and is one that would have been dear to the cou­ple; they sup­ported strug­gling artists in ev­ery way they could and wanted their legacy to con­tinue this.

Few artists of the 20th cen­tury achieved the wide­spread pop­u­lar­ity of Mary Fed­den, who con­tin­ued paint­ing at home with her beloved hus­band, Ju­lian Trevelyan, un­til the very end of her long, cre­ative life. In­deed, she would say, ‘Oh, I have to go on paint­ing— I want to, and what else would I do but die?’ Die she did, in 2012, at the grand old age of 96.

Durham Wharf was ini­tially Ju­lian’s home; he took on the river­side build­ings, once used for the un­load­ing of coal, in 1934 with his first wife, pot­ter Ur­sula Mom­mens.

It was his friend Kit Ni­chol­son (brother of Ben) who con­verted the sheds into a stu­dio, pot­tery and liv­ing quar­ters around a small gar­den and it was there that Ju­lian and Mary (who mar­ried in 1951) shared a won­der­fully happy and pro­duc­tive life.

They were first and fore­most full-time artists—ju­lian moved from paint­ing to etch­ing in the 1960s, be­fore re­sum­ing oil paint­ing again in the 1970s, and Mary re­fined her own po­etic vi­sion in lu­mi­nous land­scapes and still-lifes—but both taught at the Royal Col­lege of Art and Mary at the Ye­hudi Men­huin School for young mu­si­cians.

Hospitably, they filled their home with friends—the an­nual Boat Race par­ties were leg­endary. There was in­for­mal cham­ber mu­sic around the grand pi­ano and din­ners around their ta­ble mixed painters and writ­ers with sci­en­tists, ar­chi­tects and broad­cast­ers, all an­i­mated by lively talk and Mary’s de­li­cious cook­ing.

Their river­side room was one of the loveli­est in­te­ri­ors in London, the walls glow­ing with works by both of them from all pe­ri­ods. A Calder mo­bile hov­ered over­head, snooz­ing cats sprawled near the stove and an ec­cen­tric col­lec­tion of jugs and vases on the wide win­dowsill over­looked the river. Works by friends, too, adorned the wharf —Henry Moore, Ceri Richards and Ce­cil Collins among them—and a Pi­casso print from Ju­lian’s years in Paris in the 1930s.

Suc­cess­ful as they both were, they re­tained their favourite works to live among and it is some of these that will come under the ham­mer. So it is that Ju­lian’s sur­real and Modernist cityscapes, his bril­liantly orig­i­nal de­signs, etch­ings and con­struc­tions will sit along­side Mary’s po­etic and evoca­tive land­scapes, her most dec­o­ra­tive still-lifes and her de­light­ful de­signs for Mot­ley the Cat.

The sale brings to­gether the very works the cou­ple de­fined them­selves by, to­gether with a hand­ful of their friends’, to take their vi­sion for­ward into the fu­ture.

es­ti­mates range from £400 to £50,000. Visit www.sothe­bys.com for fur­ther in­for­ma­tion. Ari­ane Bankes was a friend of Mary Fed­den and Ju­lian Trevelyan and a fre­quent vis­i­tor to the stu­dio

‘Here... I put down my tap-root; My life was mea­sured by its tides, and my dreams were peo­pled by its swans and seag­ulls

Above left: Ju­lian Trevelyan’s colour­ful Sail­ing Boats and Bridge. Above right:

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