Mellis was born in Wu-Kung-Fu, China in 1914, the child of Scottish parents, and was returned to Scotland by the age of one. She studied at the Edinburgh College of Art, where one of her tutors was the Scottish colourist Samuel John Peploe. From 1932 through 1938 she received several awards and scholarships enabling her to travel and study in Paris. For two years she traveled and painted in Spain and Italy before returning to a Fellowship at the College in Edinburgh. In 1938 she worked at the Euston Road School, London, and married Adrian STOKES, the painter and art critic, whom she had first met in France.
She and Adrian Stokes acquired Little Parc Owles, St Ives as the impending war in 1939 led to the dispersal of the Hampstead (London) group of artists. The couple invited Barbara HEPWORTH and Ben NICHOLSON to join them until they found local accommodation. During this period her work was primarily in collage and relief carving, though she returned to painting in 1945. And it was to visit Margaret that Wilhelmina BARNS-GRAHAM first came to St Ives, as they had been students together in Scotland. This was the advent of the moderns and, as Whybrow summarises, 'The New Era'.
She and Adrian had one son, Telfer. In 1946 the couple were divorced and two years later she married the painter Francis Davison. Together with Telfer they spent two years travelling in France. Moving to Norfolk in the early 1950s, they enjoyed a life of rural self-sufficiency in an atmosphere of mutually supportive creativity, in which both artists turned to abstraction. In 1976 Margaret's rheumatoid arthritis necessitated a move to Southwold, Suffolk. Here she recovered her health and began to create driftwood constructions. She was widowed in 1984 when Davison died of a brain tumour.
Mellis exhibited widely throughout the UK, exhibiting from time to time in Cornwall.
In 2001 the Newlyn Art Gallery together with the Austin/Desmond Fine Art Gallery sponsored a Solo Exhibition which featured her work in both galleries.
Painter of landscapes, maker of reliefs and collages; sculptor
works and access
Works incl: Orange and Yellow Structure (1966) at CC
Access to works: Arts Council of England; Contemporary Arts Society; Cornwall Council (CC); Government Art Collection; Nuffield Foundation; Scottish Arts Council; Tate Gallery; V&A and others
Royal West of England Academy, Bristol Artists from Cornwall 1992
Newlyn Art Gallery (together with the Austin/Desmond Fine Art Gallery) Solo Exhibition 2001 (which featured in both Galleries)
'Structure and Colour' selected by Andrew Lambirth, May-Aug 2011, Wills Lane Gallery, St Ives
misc further info
Austin/Desmond Fine Art, London & Newlyn Art Gallery (2001) Margaret Mellis (with a Foreword by Damien Hirst, essays by Ian Jeffrey and David Batchelor, Exhibition catalogue)
Lambirth (2010) Margaret Mellis (with 126 colour & 25 b&w illus)
Mellis, M (1992) Essay in Artists from Cornwall exh cat, RWE, being Extracts from her diary about Alfred WALLIS
Bird (2008) St Ives Artists: Place & Time
Hoyle, H (Dec 2010 Women Artists in Cornwall www.cornishmuse.blogspot.com) Review of BBC4 documentary 'Art of Cornwall'
Hoyle, H (Oct 2013 Women Artists in Cornwall www.cornishmuse.blogspot.com) 'Margaret Mellis and St Ives Modernism'
Johnson & Greutzner (1975) Dictionary of British Artists
Public Catalogue Foundation (2007) Cornwall & IOS, Oil Paintings in Public Ownership;
Tate (1985) St Ives 1939-64 Twenty Five Years of Painting, Sculpture and Pottery
Whybrow (1994) St Ives (Photo of artist & son p115)
RWE (1992) Painters from Cornwall, Bristol: Sansom;