Margaret Mellis, who died aged 95 in 2009, was one of the original members of the generation of artists who colonised the town of St Ives in the years immediately before the second world war. As such, she provided one of the last direct links to Alfred Wallis (whose work appeared in this sequence yesterday) visiting him regularly with her husband the writer Adrian Stokes, and taking sketchbooks and crayons to the workhouse where he lived out the last year of his life before dying in poverty in 1942.
Margaret was always a colourist at heart, having been taught at Edinburgh College of Art by S.J.Peploe, but she was also a habitual gatherer, making collages and constructions from whatever she could find, and, following her move to Southwold in 1976, she became an inveterate beachcomber, scavenging materials for her driftwood sculptures at the sea’s edge, and swimming in the sea every day. Like Wallis everything that arrived in her life, including through the post, suggested itself as a possible material, and this included an extensive series of flower drawings on the inside of opened-out envelopes.
We showed her work in our first ever exhibition at the gallery in 1998, the inventively titled 'Opening Exhibition', prior to which she came to stay with us in Edinburgh – a visit which gave us left us with the unforgettable memory of an indomitable Margaret, aged 84, brushing her teeth in the open doorway of the bathroom, her shock of white hair set off by a pair of red woolly socks and a long black leather coat.