Mary Adshead (1904-1995)

Self portrait 1931

Here is a little biographical information about Mary Adshead who renovated Le Point and painted the trompe l'oeil murals in the small bedroom.

The principal output of Mary's long career was a series of large murals, the first painted in 1925 and the last, a mosaic, produced in 1985. Her work reflects several styles and the influence of other artists at different periods but her humour with figures and animals and the flow of line and composition remain a consistent signature throughout.

Mary attended the Slade from 1920 - 24. She won a second prize in her final year but more importantly she was selected by Professor Tonks for a mural commission at the Shadwell boys club. Rex Whistler was the other student to be offered a commission. While Whistler went on to decorate the Tate restaurant (assisted by Mary's close friend Nan West) Mary began a hectic life as a fashionable young painter. Producing murals and painted panels for Prof. Charles Reilly, her parents (Prof. Stanley Adshead and his wife Annie), Frank Pick's London underground, Weedon Grossmith, Lord Beaverbrook, the Courtaulds, Oliver Hill's pavilions at The 1937 Paris exhibition and at Colwyn Bay (working alongside Eric Ravilious), Bernard Millar's new churches in Lancashire, Lewis's restaurant in Leicester and cartoons for murals in the library of the liner Queen Mary. A regular output of easel paintings was sent to exhibitions and there were commissions for book illustration, posters, trays, screens and scenery. Illustration for The Silly Snail

She claimed that during the 1920's when she had a studio for two years in her parent's house at Chester Gate she was so busy she never once crossed the road to Regent's Park. During the 1930's her 'spare time' was taken up with marrying Stephen Bone (a landscape painter and later Manchester Guardian critic) and having 3 children. She managed to combine family life with active participation in the Women's International Art Club and supporting her husband with fund raising for the Artist's Refugee Committee.

Even during the war, when help with the house and family was not available, Mary was able, with Kenneth Clarke's support, to complete mural commissions at British restaurants, a Services club and a Staff canteen while also producing and exhibiting collages and easel paintings.

At the end of the war Mary had become an established artist, she was elected secretary of the Society of Mural Painters. A series of commissions for restaurants (including the vast top floor of Selfridges) , public buildings and churches kept her regularly employed in the 1940's and 50's. She competed successfully to design several British postage stamps. After 1960 she had fewer mural commissions but wrote and illustrated two books, painted many acrylic 'portraits' of houses, created shell grottoes and helped with the matt painting for the film Anthony and Cleopatra. Her last major commission, for a mosaic lined underpass in Docklands was completed with help from a number of assistants (including Mona Hatoum).

Mary's work testifies to her determination as a professional artist and her enjoyment in decoration that enhanced her world.

For more information and photos of some of her work please see: www.maryadshead.co.uk

and BBC's BBC Your paintings

'Earthly Delights' Exhibition 2005

An exhibition of her work was held at The University of Liverpool Art Gallery, Graves Art Gallery Sheffield and Kingston-upon-Thames Art Gallery in 2005. An illustrated catalogue is available.

University of Liverpool Art Gallery