Details & Cataloguing

A Painter’s Paradise: Julian Trevelyan & Mary Fedden at Durham Wharf


Julian Trevelyan, R.A.
signed and dated '40 '43
oil on canvas
66.5 by 101.5cm.; 26¼ by 40in.
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Alex. Reid & Lefevre Ltd, London
Sale, Phillips London, 9th June 1998, lot 99, where purchased by the Trevelyan family


London, Royal College of Art, The Imaginative Impulse: Julian Trevelyan 1910-1988, 27th October - 22nd November 1998, un-numbered exhibition, with exhibition catalogue published by the Bohun Gallery, Henley-on-Thames, illustrated p.67.


Philip Trevelyan, Julian Trevelyan: Picture Language, Lund Humphries, Farnham, 2013, illustrated p.143.

Catalogue Note

‘Here … I put down my tap-root; My life was measured by its tides, and my dreams were peopled by its swans and seagulls. It has become the backcloth to all my various activities and has remained so ever since’ (Julian Trevelyan, Indigo Days, Macgibbon and Kee, London, 1957, p.50).

Trevelyan and his first wife, the well-known British potter Ursula Mommens, found Durham Wharf on the first day of their search for a property to live, having married in 1934. Whilst walking by the river in Hammersmith, they discovered a 'To Let' sign on some old buildings by the river and immediately fell for the location: 'The tide was up and gulls flew screaming round us while tugs and sailing dinghies slapped about in the choppy water; we realised instinctively this was our home and we could live nowhere else' (Julian Trevelyan, Indigo Days, Macgibbon & Kee, London, 1957, p.49). They took the lease the same day and Ben Nicholson's brother, Kit, converted the buildings into a studio and residence with a shed for Ursula's oil fired kiln. Facilities were pretty basic and the couple lived close to the elements with only an old 'Pither' stove for heating:

'On winter nights, the westerly gales would hurl themselves at the tin roof which would quiver like thunder, and it was difficult to believe that one was not on the edge of the Atlantic' (Julian Trevelyan, ibid., p.50).

Trevelyan settled down to domestic life and his work thrived during this period particularly through the series of paintings in the 1940s which celebrated his life at the Wharf. Philip Trevelyan notes: 'it was at Durham Wharf that the complexity of his ideas and the different strands in his vision would come together: the brilliant light of these riverside studios would re-open his ideas' (Philip Trevelyan, Julian Trevelyan: Picture Language, Lund Humphries, Farnham, 2013, p.97). Julian Trevelyan wrote at the time: 'Now, within a year of my arrival in London, I found myself in a very different climate. Night had given way to day, a blustery spring day perhaps, but I accepted it as a way out of the impasse into which I had got myself' (Julian Trevelyan, Indigo Days, Macgibbon and Kee, London, 1957, p.47).

A Painter’s Paradise: Julian Trevelyan & Mary Fedden at Durham Wharf