Mary Fedden

The Etching Table


Not on display

Mary Fedden 1915–2012
Oil paint on canvas
Support: 762 × 917 mm
frame: 843 × 995 × 50 mm
Presented by the Trustees of the Chantrey Bequest 1991


Fedden's oil painting The Etching Table celebrates the making of her first lithographs in 1971. Painting directly from the motif, she added certain imaginative details, flattening the forms and placing them separately across the picture plane. Mel Gooding described such work as 'that play of imaginative delight and the expression of affection' that Fedden desires in her painting (Gooding, p.36). The artist acknowledges that she appropriates freely from other artists - she particularly admires Ben Nicholson and Christopher Wood - and adapts their characteristics to her own style. Unconcerned with the radical exploration of the language of painting in relation to matters of perception or expression, she is primarily interested in the shape, colour, and variety of natural and everyday things.

Further reading:
Mel Gooding, Mary Fedden, Aldershot, Hants 1995, reproduced p.91 in colour

Terry Riggs
November 1997

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Display caption

Fedden''s principal subject is still life. She is fascinated by the shape, colour and variety of natural forms and everyday objects. The subject of this painting is the table she used when she began making prints in 1971 and which belonged to her husband, the artist, Julian Trevelyan (1910-1988). Fedden paints directly from the motif, but adds imaginative details. 'I hope to paint things as I want them to be,' she has said. 'I would rather transform the things I look at ... to make the picture that I want to make.'

Gallery label, August 2004

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Technique and condition

The painting was executed on a medium-weight linen canvas, which is attached to its original stretcher by iron tacks into the sides of the frame. The canvas was primed by the artist, probably with Talens Gesso Primer, in two fairly thin layers (letter to Tate Gallery, February 1992).

An initial drawing was painted onto the primed surface in a neutral colour such as raw umber, diluted with turpentine. Artists' oil paints were applied by brush in several fairly thin layers over the face of the canvas, leaving some areas of white priming visible. However, there is some variation in paint thickness with extensively turpentine thinned veils of colour, contrasted with sharp areas of brushmarked impasto.

The painting is not varnished and is in good condition apart from a few minor losses and abrasions to the surface. On acquisition a new frame was made with the approval of the artist: 'I like my frames to be fairly simple so as to support the painting, but not an elaborate feature in themselves' (letter, February 1992).

Jo Crook
November 1997

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