I look at Mary Fedden's paintings, particularly her still lifes, with great pleasure. I can't find any great meaning or depth or symbolism in them; they are simply beautiful. This quality is what causes the critics great consternation; only difficult or shocking or ugly or challenging works are generally considered worthy of attention whereas painting - and looking for pleasure - are activities deemed shallow and worthless. I couldn't disagree more, and thank heaven for artists like MF who celebrate colour, ordinary objects, daily life, and in doing so make them compelling subjects for art.
[The Pot of Shells Mary Fedden (1971)]
I've also recently read a big book on Mary Fedden (1915-1912) which is packed with paintings and drawings. The text is good, insightful, and clear but ultimately the author struggles to make a strong argument for greatness precisely because MF refused to make any claims for her art other than to say that painting flowers was one of the most exciting things in the world, and that she simply couldn't not paint. She was a self-effacing, utterly natural painter but this doesn't make for good art history/criticism copy, although it did mean she sold thousands of cards and prints.
[The Cake Shop Mary Fedden (1971)]
While the book allows for a long, enjoyable wallow in her lovely paintings, it also reveals how brilliant MF was at drawing. I could happily live with several MF paintings on my walls, but a drawing or two might be even better as I know I would examine them closely all the time to see how her hand must have moved over the paper, how she filled in spaces and left other parts quite empty. She has a very spare, very delicate style (you can see how she influenced Hockney when she taught him) which is beautifully fresh and light. Sometimes she coloured in just one object (a lemon, a tulip) almost as a simple, direct colour statement, but it also throws into the relief the simplicity of the combination of dark grey pencil and off-white paper. She makes drawing look like child's play, and that takes huge talent.