February 14, 2017


Margaret Nairne Mellis (1914 – 2009), was one of the early members and last survivors of the group of modernist artists that gathered in St Ives, in Cornwall, in the 1940s. She and her first husband, Adrian Stokes, played an important role in the rise of St Ives as a magnet for artists who frequented their home in Carbis Bay. This included Patrick Heron, Naum Garbo, Ben Nicholson and Barbara Hepworth to name just a few. She divorced Stokes and then married Francis Davison when in Nice, in 1948. After living in France for a short time they returned to live in Suffolk in the 1950s. Margaret lived and produced art for many years in Southwold. Having been cared for by her son, the artist Telfer Stokes, for the last 5 years of her life, Margaret passed away on March 17 2009 .

Though championed by Norman Reid and David brown of the Tate – like many women artists recognition to a wider audience was slow. It was 2001 when an early admirer of her work remarked “Why hasn’t someone noticed Margaret Mellis’ contribution to British art?” This person was Damien Hirst.

In the late 1970s, Mellis first noticed the visual allure of highly coloured, painted driftwood. She created a series of constructed pieces – we are delighted to present some of these remarkable works for sale at Houghton Hall.