Mary Kessell

1914–1977

Mary Kessell, 'Still Life under the Sea' 1960
Still Life under the Sea 1960
© The estate of Mary Kessell
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Biography

Mary M Kessell (13 November 1914 – 1977) was a British figurative painter, illustrator, designer and war artist. Born in London, she studied at the Clapham School of Art, then later at the Central School of Arts and Crafts. At the end of the Second World War, she was commissioned to work in Germany as an official British war artist; one of only three women selected. She spent six weeks in Germany, travelling to the recently liberated Bergen-Belsen concentration camp as well as other major cities including Berlin. She produced charcoal drawings of refugees, primarily of women and children which she subsequently sold to the War Artists Advisory Committee. After the war Kessell collaborated with the Needlework Development Scheme (NDS) to produce experimental designs for machine and hand embroidery as well as working for Shell as a designer. She later returned to the Central School to teach at the School of Silversmithing and Jewellery alongside painter Richard Hamilton.

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