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Norfolk masterpieces on display in Sir John Hurt Art Prize show

PUBLISHED: 14:45 15 September 2020 | UPDATED: 15:23 15 September 2020

Lady Hurt, wife of the late actor Sir John Hurt. Pictured with some of John's artwork.
Picture: ANTONY KELLY

Lady Hurt, wife of the late actor Sir John Hurt. Pictured with some of John's artwork. Picture: ANTONY KELLY

Archant Norfolk 2018

See lockdown-inspired art in a garden setting as part of the 2020 shortlist exhibition

Alde Valley by Anita Cameron is one of the shortlisted works in the Sir John Hurt Art Prize exhibitionAlde Valley by Anita Cameron is one of the shortlisted works in the Sir John Hurt Art Prize exhibition

The winner of the 2020 Sir John Hurt Art Prize will be announced as part of an innovative socially-distanced art exhibition held across several marquees in gardens near Melton Constable.

The Sir John Hurt Art Prize is usually part of the Holt Festival and although this year’s festival was cancelled the art prize has attracted a record number of entries from all over the world.

“The standard is fantastic with some heavyweight, internationally recognised artists sending in work,” said Sir John’s widow, and Holt Festival artistic director, Anwen, Lady Hurt. The exhibition of more than 100 shortlisted entries will also include a small exhibition of 19th century masterpieces by Norwich School of Painters artists such as John Sell Cotman and John Crome, and a 20th century work by Cedric Morris the influential founder of the East Anglian School of Painting.

The Norwich School of Painters was the first provincial art movement in Britain and the paintings on show, from the collection of the late Sir Godfrey Milton-Thompson, are due to be auctioned by Sworders later this year.

Salmon Spearing by John Sell Cotman will be on show at the Sir John Hurt Art Prize exhibitionSalmon Spearing by John Sell Cotman will be on show at the Sir John Hurt Art Prize exhibition

The exhibition of shortlisted works for the Sir John Hurt Art Prize and the Sworders Art Prize for young artists will include paintings, prints, collage and photography created by artists around the world, with a strong showing from East Anglians.

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Lockdown has inspired many of the entries with pictures focusing on the intensely local – from graffiti on an A47 underpass to light reflected over Norfolk’s River Ant.

The winners will be announced at 1pm on Friday September 25 via social media. The winner of the Sir John Hurt Art Prize will receive £1,750 and the work of art will be exhibited at the Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts at the University of East Anglia. The winner of the Sworders Art Prize for entrants aged between 16 and 23 will receive £750 and a commission-free exhibition at The Gallery, Holt.

Lockdown Diet by Emilia Symis will be on show at the Sir John Hurt Art Prize exhibitionLockdown Diet by Emilia Symis will be on show at the Sir John Hurt Art Prize exhibition

Sir John, who died in 2017, was an artist, as well as one of the greatest actors of his time, starring in scores of films including The Elephant Man, Alien, the Harry Potter films, The Naked Civil Service, I, Claudius, and A Man for all Seasons. He was described by David Lynch, who directed him in The Elephant Man, as “Simply the greatest actor in the world.” He and Anwen, a film producer and casting director, moved to Norfolk in 2008. “We just fell in love with Norfolk,” she said. “There’s so much going on here, there’s so much culture here. Norfolk is a real creative hub.”

John became chancellor of Norwich University of the Arts and got involved in organisations including Sheringham Little Theatre, Cinema City and Holt Festival. He judged the The Holt Festival Art Prize on several occasions and it was renamed in his honour. After his death Anwen, vowed not to be submerged by grief and loss. Instead she took on much of his public and charitable work. The first ever exhibition of Sir John’s paintings was held as part of the Holt Festival the year after his death. It included drawings dating back as far as the 1960s, as well as much more recent portraits and self portraits. Another part of his legacy, the Sir John Hurt Film Trust, based in Cinema City, Norwich, was launched in his memory last year.

The Sir John Hurt Art Prize shortlist exhibition takes place in series of marquees in a garden near Melton Constable and is open to the public on September 26 and 27. For a full list of all the shortlisted entries and tickets, which are free but must be booked, visit holtfestival.org/artprizes

County Mayo II by Hannah Mooney will be on show at the Sir John Hurt Art Prize exhibitionCounty Mayo II by Hannah Mooney will be on show at the Sir John Hurt Art Prize exhibition


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