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Mary Fedden RA (1915-2012)
Moonlight (Queen of Spades), 1992

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Moonlight (Queen of Spades), which was inspired by Tchaikovsky’s opera The Queen of Spades (1890), was included in one of several exhibitions of Mary Fedden’s work shown at Glyndebourne Opera House. Tchaikovsky’s opera was based on a short story of the same title by Alexander Pushkin and both explore themes of love and gambling.
Fedden’s gouache, which depicts a still life in the foreground of a moonlit landscape, refers to a scene in the third act when the female protagonist, Liza tragically commits suicide. The saying ‘life is but a game’ (translated literally from the Russian ‘What is our life? A game!’) is a quote from Act 3 of the opera.

Image: Mary Fedden RA, Moonlight (Queen Of Spades), 1992, Jerwood Collection ©The artist’s estate/Bridgeman Images 2016. 


gouache on paper


21.6 x 26.7 cm


Glyndebourne Festival Gallery, June 1992, no. 75.
Anonymous sale; Brightwells, Leominster, 27 July 2016, lot 557, where purchased.

Mary Fedden studied at the Slade School of Art in London from 1932-36. After leaving college she returned to her birthplace Bristol, designing stage sets and teaching for a living.
During the Second World War Fedden served both in the Land Army and as a driver overseas. When the war was over she married fellow artist Julian Trevelyan. They settled in Durham Wharf, Chiswick and lived and worked there for the rest of their lives. She retained her connection with the West Country through the Royal West of England Academy, becoming its President in 1984. She also taught at the Royal College of Art; David Hockney and Allen Jones were among her students.
As well as her still life and flower paintings Fedden was known for her mural commissions, she produced one for the Festival of Britain in 1951 and collaborated with her husband on another for the Charing Cross Hospital. She exhibited at Glyndebourne Opera, and designed the cover for their 1999 programme. She was elected RA in 1992 and awarded an OBE in 1997.