Mary Fedden graduated from the Slade School of Art in 1936 after which she returned to Bristol where she taught and painted until the outbreak of World War Two. From 1946 she developed her style of still lives and flower paintings which were reminiscent of Matisse and Braque. She married the artist Julian Trevelyan who 'really changed the direction of my painting'.
In 1956 she began teaching at the Royal College of Art where she remained until 1964 when she took up a ten year post at the Yehudi Menuhin School for gifted musicians. In 1995 she acknowledged in an interview in 'The Artist' magazine:
'I really float from influence to influence…. I found the early Ben Nicholsons fascinating as were the paintings of his wife Winifred. I also admire the Scottish artist Anne Redpath and the French painter Henri Hayden.'
Working exclusively in watercolour and collage her still lives are usually placed in front of a landscape, and she enjoys the contrasting of disparate, even quirky elements. She emphasises the rough texture of her favourite Indian papers which she works on in their unstretched state.
Mary Fedden's work has been widely exhibited. Several solo shows have been held at the New Grafton Gallery, Beaux Arts, Christopher Hull Gallery and Redfern Gallery in London. She has also received several commissions for murals including the Festival of Britain in 1951 and for schools in Bristol, Hertfordshire and London. Her work can be found in numerous public and private collections such as the Chantrey Bequest for the Tate Gallery, Contemporary Art Society, and the City art galleries of Carlisle, Hull, Bristol, Edinburgh and Sheffield. In 1995 the writer and critic Mel Gooding wrote a monograph on her work tracing her long career up to her marriage to Julian Trevelyan and their life together on the banks of the Thames.
Mary Fedden has held the post of President of the RWA between 1984 and 1989. She is a member of the Royal Academy and has received an honorary doctorate from the University of Bath. She has also been recipient of the OBE.