Eileen Cooper black dress with Frances Blythe and winning entry. Credit The Photographers Gallery.

An artist who lives in North Norfolk has been announced as this year’s winner of Holt Festival’s Sir John Hurt Art Prize and the accompanying cheque for £1,750.
Frances Blythe who lives in Ridlington near Happisburgh was awarded the top prize by the judges who had to select from almost 250 entries from around the country. After lengthy deliberations her oil on canvas painting Sunset was unanimously chosen by the three member judging panel
Announcing the winner, panel member Robert Upstone praised the exceptional high quality of the entries which made their decision. ‘The quality of the submissions do seem to somehow get batter every year’ he said ‘making it an extremely difficult task for us to choose just one winner’. Fellow judge and internationally respected artist Eileen Cooper RA, described the painting as ‘very beautiful and mysterious.

Anwen Hurt, James Glennie, Robert Upstone, Frances Blythe, Eileen Cooper. Credit The Photographers Gallery.

Ms Blythe, 65, has only lived in the county for three and a half years since returning to the UK after 20 years living in Australia. Although she has painted all her life she only started formal training in 1997 at The School of Art, Curtin University in Perth, Western Australia. She was awarded a Master of Arts (Visual Arts) there in 2004
London born Frances, who names the British abstract painter Howard Hodgkin and French post-impressionist Pierre Bonnard as major influences said ‘I’m very pleased and thrilled to have won the Prize. It’s especially lovely to return to England and have my work appreciated and be awarded such a prestigious honour. It’s also rather special to have my work on show alongside the very first exhibition of the paintings of Sir John Hurt ’
As well as the cash, the prize includes her winning entry being exhibited at the Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts later in the year.
Holt Festival Fine Art Director James Glennie who organises the Prize commented ‘I am delighted that the very distinguished judges selected such a captivating and interesting work from a really strong field. The quality of the entries goes from strength to strength each year’.

Frances Blythe: Sunset

The prize was renamed Holt Festival – Sir John Hurt Art Prize last year in honour of the Norfolk screen legend. He was a keen supporter of Holt Festival and especially the Prize, awarding or judging or both whenever his film commitments allowed.



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