Portrait of Fred Mayor
Fred Mayor was born on December 21st 1866 at Winksley,
near Ripon, Yorkshire. He was educated at St. Edmund's School
Canterbury, where he took eagerly to drawing and also to cricket,
showing such prowess at the game that his headmaster foretold
a professional's career for him.
It was art which prevailed, and during his early
days he shared a studio at Chiswick, London with Sir Frank Brangwyn,
with whom he also shared a single suit for alternate visits to
the theatre. Like many young painters at this time, in 1886 Mayor
went to Paris and studied at the Academie Julian. It was during
this period that he met Wilson Steer and Walter Sickert, who became
lifelong friends and had a great influence on his work.
Fred Mayor's first artistic breakthrough was to
have one of his paintings accepted at The Royal Academy of Arts
in 1888 when he was just twenty-one. Mayor was a man of many talents,
and in 1897 he filed his first Patent application for "The improved
method of folding and putting up cigarette papers, sanitary papers,
writing and blotting sheets and the like" The idea was almost
identical to that adopted by Rizzla for their cigarette papers.
In 1899 he went to live in Staithes, an early artists
colony, where his fellow painters were Harold and Dame Laura Knight,
also Harrington Mann and a young Sheffield born artist, Hannah
Hoyland, later to become his wife. The artists were quickly absorbed
into the local community, to whom they introduced hockey and inevitably,
Fred Mayor was fond of telling his story of travelling
by train to an 'Artists versus Authors' cricket match when, taking
pity on a ragged, hungry looking fellow on the station, Mayor
asked the man carry his cricket bag in exchange for a handful
of coppers. Mayor was later acutely embarrassed to discover that
the ragged fellow was not only playing for the opposing team,
but that he was none other than the author of "Peter Pan", Sir
William Frederick Mayor
At that time shooting rivalled cricket as Fred Mayor's
favourite sport, demanding mention in his life as an artist because
the last stages of his early pictures, before their dispatch to
the Royal Academy, were sometimes hurried over to allow a day
out with his gun. His sporting tastes may too have had their share
in the sensibility shown in his work to open air effects and in
the robustness of their treatment. Greater adventures called him;
on leaving Staithes he sailed extensively on a windjammer. He
had always been a keen sailor, and as a result of his experiences
with large sailing vessels, he was later to make and rig scale
models on which he would practice hoisting and trimming the sails.
Sailing ships were a favourite subject for many of his paintings
at the time and the authenticity of the rigging and sails is clearly
apparent to an experienced sailor.
His next invention was one for a carpet-sweeping
machine, on similar lines to that later produced by Ewbank. In
this period he travelled extensively overland through Europe and
later travelled to Morocco, pushing south to Fez, where no English
artist had previously ventured, and it was from here that many
of his finest pastels were executed. On his return in 1902 he
exhibited one hundred of these pastels at the Leicester Galleries,
London to considerable acclaim in the national and provincial
Fred Mayor then set about the difficult task of
winning the hand of Hannah Hoyland (9/1/73 - 2/11/47) who also
exhibited at the Royal Academy, with whom he had fallen in love
in his early years in Staithes. This was to prove a difficult
task, since Hannah's father, a wealthy brush manufacturer from
Sheffield, was totally opposed to his daughter marrying a penniless
peripatetic artist, and flatly refused his blessing.
Help was at hand from Hannah's cousin, Edith Wynne
Matheson, (the actress who later followed Ellen Terry as Henry
Irving's leading lady), who took pity on the young couple, and
lent them ten pounds which enabled them to elope in 1902 to Montreuil-sur-Mer
in northern France, where they rented a fine town house in the
main square for eight pounds per year. At first they could not
afford to buy furniture, but Fred and Hannah made friends with
a local Antique dealer who displayed his furniture in their house,
and whenever they sold a painting they would buy another antique
from the dealer until the house was fully furnished.
The years Fred and Hannah spent in Montreuil were
very happy ones. Their first son Freddy (later to found the Mayor
Gallery in Mayfair) was born in 1903, and was swiftly followed
by a second, Charles, and from Fred Mayor's paintings of the time,
life appears to have been one long round of picnics on the ramparts
of Montreuil, Sunday lunches in the Hotel de France, and idyllic
summers. It was in Montreuil that Fred Mayor developed the light,
impressionistic style with which he is so clearly identified.
In company with such fellow artists as Wilson Steer, he produced
many spontaneous sketches and a few oils, of the market place
and of the countryside of Northern France, filled with strong
light, and splashes of vibrant colour.
Fred Mayor and his patented easel
Winters were spent either in France or at the house
of Spence Ingall in Algiers, until Fred discovered Cassis near
Marseilles, where he painted many fine seascapes in both oils
and watercolour. Summers would be spent in Le Touquet or Paris-Plage,
thus allowing Mayor to explore the cool clear light of the north,
and the strong Mediterranean light of the south.
Mayor was still in an inventive mood, and in January
1908 he filed and had accepted his second invention, this time
for something closer to his heart, an artists easel with an attached
camp stool, which actually went into production with Rowleys.
Early in 1909 the Mayors gave up their house in Montreuil and
returned to England. Fred and Hannah lived at Whitchurch in Buckinghamshire,
where in March that year their only daughter, Edith was born.
She was known as 'Fifi' until her late seventies, when she took
her mother's name, Hannah.
From Whitchurch they spent holidays in London, Falmouth,
Portsmouth and Amberley where Mayor painted as enthusiastically
as he did in the then Elm dotted Vale of Aylesbury. Close associates
in this period were Philip Connard, Harrington Mann and Derwent
Wood. In 1912 the family moved to 61 Earls Court Square in London,
and later that year his paintings won him a Silver Medal at the
International Exhibition in Amsterdam. One of his students in
this period was Maud Burge from New Zealand, who was later to
receive great acclaim in that country.
Despite his earlier prowess as a sportsman and sailor,
Mayor was a long time sufferer of severe asthma, and had to undergo
what should have been a simple operation to fit him for military
service as a war artist, but on January 10th 1916 with his wife
at his bedside, he haemorrhaged. Because of the pressure of nursing
the war wounded, neither a doctor nor nurse could be found in
time and tragically, he died. He was buried at Chiswick church
in west London.
He was just forty-nine and at the peak of his prowess
as an artist.
Compiled by Edith Chudley (Mayor) and Gavin Pearce,
September 1992 (Updated September, 2003)
With acknowledgement to Dr Peter Phillips and The Mayor Gallery
Apart from painting, Fred Mayor was also an inventor and an