Mary Potter 1900-1981

Mary Potter was a painter of still lifes and landscapes in oil and watercolour.


Born in Beckenham, Kent in 1900, she studied at the Beckenham School of Art in 1916 before being awarded a scholarship to the Royal College of Art. Potter declined and instead, in 1918, took the Orpen bursary and began her studies at the Slade. After gaining a full scholarship the following year, Potter became a protégé of the influential new Professor, Henry Tonks, and graduated with seven awards in 1921.


Potter's best-known work uses a restrained palette of subtle, elusive colours as well as fugitive shapes and textures to convey the ephemeral quality of the air and light. Many of her pre-war paintings are of the Thames at Chiswick, as seen from her window, while her later work responds to the coastal landscape around Aldeburgh, Suffolk, where she lived for many years.


Potter had been made a member of the Seven and Five Society from early in its history in 1921, and their exhibitions provided her first source of critical praise. From 1922 Potter also exhibited with the New English Art Club under her maiden name (Attenborough) before marrying Stephen Potter in 1927.  She moved to the London Group, who split from the NEAC in 1930, the same year that she was appointed a Member. Potter's first solo exhibition took place at the Bloomsbury Gallery in 1931 and was well-reviewed by contemporary critics. She went on to have many solo exhibitions with London galleries such as the Redfern (1949) and the New Art Centre, which continued to champion her work following her death in 1981.