Chris Wadsworth
Percy Kelly - Looking East to the Ennerdale Fells
Writer and Art Consultant

19th October 2012


Cat and lemon; Mary Fedden 1915 - 2012

The Royal Academy is like a family. When a member dies, a memorial service is held at St James' Piccadilly and the family turn out in force. Mary Fedden who was a  97 year old national treasure when she died last June was particularly cherished. She is one of the best known and loved academicians. Yesterday fellow members, family and friends gathered to pay their last respects.

The church rapidly filled with chattering people in bright Fedden colours; pink and black chequered scarves, striped dresses, green and purple harelequin jackets and men in shocking pink shirts. She would have been delighted to see these walking paintings. Two of her paintings on easels at the altar reminded us of her joyful still lives and eccentric but unerring eye. Her work is recognisable and accessible to all.

There was music, poetry and eulogies delivered by her step son Philip Trevelyan, Sir David Attenborough, Bamber Gasgoine and her biographer Mel Gooding. Afterwards the chiarascuro of colour spilled out on to the pavement and over the road for lunch at the Royal Academy. So many people I recognised or knew were there - all talking about her and remembering the good times.

I was proud to be considered a friend. My visits to the boat house at Durham Wharf began in the early eighties and continued until she sadly no longer recognised me. It was a privelege to sit in her verdant garden by the Thames drinking tea while Pussy her famous tabby, star of so many of her works, brushed against my legs.

Then it was a dash round the block to the first exhibition in the newly created Burlington Gardens. Titled RA NOW, it showcases work from 121 living Academicians including the honorary members who had all donated a piece of work to be sold in support of the renovation work. It was good to see some of the artists who have exhibited at Castlegate House up there - particularly Kenneth Draper, Norman Ackroyd and Barbara Rae. A day for nostalgia and celebration.

After a hectic two days it was good to get on a comfortable Virgin train and move north at speed. Just 3 hours 5 minutes after leaving Euston we were pulling into Penrith station. What a difference Richard Branson has made to the West Coast line. Long may he reign.



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