Born in Birmingham in 1935, Michael Felmingham has devoted a nearly seventy-year career to the study of architecture across oils, murals, engravings, and his favourite medium, watercolours. Beginning his professional career in 1956, Michael balanced his personal work with a desire to instruct, teaching at Leicester and then Coventry college of art before turning to painting full time in 1989.
Felmingham’s fascination with architecture has been a defining theme throughout his life. His early career would see him work with the architect famed architect Clough Williams-Ellis, producing murals for his Italianate model town of Portmeirion in Wales and already demonstrating a close affinity with historical architectural style. During the late 1950s and the 1960s, Michael focused on works depicting English Country Houses and their gardens. Even in these early pieces his trademark combination of linear clarity with the more expressive potentialities of watercolour was apparent. His studies of these houses would reach a culmination in 1972 when the artist wrote and illustrated Ruins: A Personal Anthology. Chronicling ruined estates and their overgrown gardens, Felmingham’s work demonstrated his ability to capture not just architectural detail but imbue it with great atmosphere and tone.
The next phase of Michael’s career would see him locate his studio in the Warwickshire town of Leamington Spa. With its Villas, Georgian crescents, and grand squares, the heritage town afforded the artist an unrivalled amount of architecture from which to draw inspiration. During this period, Felmingham would also begin to spend increasing time travelling to Venice, drawn to its complex grandeur and variety. Rather than repeating the best-known and most-studied monuments of the city, Michael has instead largely focused on secret corners and secluded waterways. His Venetian works are particularly known for how well they capture the city’s ephemeral atmosphere, focusing on the sudden gleams of light as architecture and water meet.
Felmingham saw great success in his views of Venice, allowing his transition to full time painting in 1989. Working with the Royal Academy and the Royal Watercolour Society, winning the prestigious Saunders Waterford prize in 1981, his turn to Venice established him as one of the country’s leading watercolourists. Felmingham’s works became well known throughout the country when he started exhibiting Gladwell & Patterson in the late 1990s, holding six solo shows over the next decade. Michael continues to work extensively in watercolours, and his work is represented in multiple private and public collections, including that of the Bank of England.