The Twentieth Century Society

Campaigning for outstanding buildings

Fiona MacCarthy

Tribute to Fiona MacCarthy

We were saddened to hear of the death of journalist, biographer and past C20 Society president Fiona MacCarthy, who passed away peacefully last week at the age of 80 after a long illness.

Fiona was the author of outstanding biographies of many designers key to the history of modernism. These included Walter Gropius: Visionary Founder of the Bauhaus, published only last year and Eric Gill in 1989. She was also a pioneering journalist, most notable for the Guardian, whose obituary remembers how they “promoted her ferocious opinion column in an ad with her picture, captioned “Fiona MacCarthy may look like a fashion model but she writes like a sabre-toothed tiger.”

C20 Society Director Catherine Croft pays tribute: “We were immensely privileged to have Fiona as our President.  I always valued her knowledge, good sense and really looked forward to meeting with her, she was amazing and inspirational.

“Fiona was always meticulously elegant and poised when I met her in her role as our President, and she was consistently insightful about our work and supportive of our campaigning. When we featured the home she had shared with her husband designer David Mellor as a “Me and My House” piece in our Magazine, she enjoyed recalling how primitive it had been when she first moved in. After our Sheffield AGM 2012, she very generously entertained C20 members at the C21st home she had commissioned from Michael and Patti Hopkins in Hathersage, the village outside Sheffield where the practice had earlier built a circular factory for cutlery production for David Mellor. Her writing room was lined with tiny shelves to allow her to reshuffle and organise.”

Fiona also featured in a ‘Desert Island Choice’ article in C20 magazine in January last year, with one of her chosen objects being a Crucifix and Candleholders designed by Elisabeth Frink and her husband David. You can read the article here.

Fiona curated exhibitions for the Crafts Council, the V&A, Sheffield Museum and the National Portrait Gallery. She was appointed OBE in 2009 for services to literature, and was a fellow of the Royal College of Art and the Royal Society of Literature. She was President of the C20 Society from 2011 to 2014.

A small funeral for family and close friends will be held next week with plans to hold a memorial service in London later in the year

She will be sadly missed.