We are saddened to learn of the death of writer and LMH Honorary Fellow, Dr Fiona MacCarthy OBE, FRCA, FRSL.
Fiona, who was 80, was a journalist and writer about design, as well as a prolific and distinguished biographer. On leaving LMH she became the Design Correspondent of the Guardian. She subsequently wrote for the Times and the Observer before concentrating on books.
Her first major book concerned the work and (controversial) life of the artist, Eric Gill, which caused something of a sensation. She followed this with a biography of William Morris. Other books included a biography of CR Ashbee, the British architect and designer who was a prime mover of the Arts and Crafts movement; Byron; Gropius; Burne-Jones and Stanley Spencer. Her autobiography, The Last Curtsey, (2006) included memories of her time as a debutante, presented to the Queen in 1958. It was described in the Guardian as “a work of social history that documents a moment of transition, when a set of rituals associated with the aristocracy and monarchy finally seemed outdated in a country that had just woken up to the end of empire.”
Of her LMH days the Guardian wrote: “As one of only four debs from the season of 1958 to go to university, she remembers Auden's ‘eccentric but wonderful lectures’ at Oxford, as well as those of Edgar Wind, the university's first professor of art history, which had a cult following among those students, like MacCarthy, who had already developed a marked interest in visual culture.”
In 1966 she married the industrial designer, David Mellor, who in many ways exemplified Morris’s ideals of craft, community and beauty. He died in 2009.
Her photograph is on the walls of the Deneke corridor, at LMH, including a reproduction of the Guardian’s marketing material promoting her forthright opinion column. A picture of her was captioned “Fiona MacCarthy may look like a fashion model but she writes like a sabre-toothed tiger.”
She was elected an Honorary Fellow in 2007.