A painter’s paradise
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: