Book of the Week: Mary Fedden: Enigmas and Variations by Christopher Andreae

Our very first Book of the Week post is a celebration of artist Mary Fedden, who died on 22 June 2012 aged 96. Her obituaries were fulsome: ‘She was one of Britain’s best-known and most sought after painters’ (The Telegraph); she ‘brought to perfection a style that married a very English sensibility to a modern European one’ (The Guardian); ‘an artist whose exquisitely executed paintings often take the form of a hybrid between a still life and a landscape’ (The Independent). She left behind a substantial body of work in oil, gouache, pencil and collage which is often quietly surreal.

Christopher Andreae’s book Mary Fedden: Enigmas and Variations was published by Lund Humphries in 2007 when the artist was already in her early nineties but still extraordinarily active. In preparing the text the author spent much time talking to Fedden about her life and work, and to her extensive network of collectors and fans about why they buy her paintings. Some confessed that they found it hard to stop collecting her pictures, many summing up the appeal of Fedden’s paintings as ‘life-enhancing’. At the launch of the book in the Royal Academy Friends room they queued and queued for the opportunity to buy a copy of Christopher Andreae’s book signed by the unflagging artist and author.

This was the second book to be published on Fedden’s work, following on from Mel Gooding’s shorter monograph of 1995 (now out of print). It avoids the chronological narrative of Mel Gooding’s book for a more thematic approach, drawing out the enigmatic subtlety of Fedden’s paintings, and her recurring visual themes, by making us look closely at the works – and there are over 200 of them reproduced in her book, often dominating the page. House and Garden magazine, reviewing the book on publication, wrote: ‘…this is a book to delight Fedden’s many friends and admirers… [the author’s] sensitive, intelligent book deepens our understanding of the subtleties of [Fedden’s] art – and its unexpected variety.’

You can see some of Mary Fedden’s work on display at the London Art Fair next week, on four galleries’ stands: Lena Boyle Fine Art (G27), Portland Gallery (22), Redfern Gallery (42) and Waterhouse and Dodd (20). And you can purchase a copy of Christopher Andreae’s book less our special 20% London Art Fair discount by visiting our stand M1 at the Fair, or ordering a copy from our website (just quote special-offer reference L13HBF20 when checking out).

Lucy Myers, Managing Director


Mary Fedden: Enigmas and Variations by Christopher Andreae. 2007. Hardback. 176 pages. 201 colour illustrations. £40/$80