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Hope alumna's portrait of grandfather exhibits at top US museum

A loving portrait of her late grandfather has landed a former Liverpool Hope University student an exhibition at a prestigious US art museum.

Amy Hughes, 27, created the oil painting of ex-soldier Harry Smith based on a photograph she took shortly before he died aged 86 in 2012.

The New York-based artist says her grandfather’s “characterful face with personality” has even moved people to tears.

Miss Hughes, who graduated with a BA Hons Fine Art degree from Liverpool Hope University in 2013, has also sold some of her work at auction in Sotheby’s New York.

She said: “I’m very close to my grandparents, and after Grandad died I had an idea to make work about that feeling of losing someone you are so close too.

“The thought stayed with me and I was sorting through some things a few years later and found that photograph. I was really drawn to it because it is a bit more engaging than the usual staged portrait.

“But I wanted to be careful that it was not too sentimental. He had such a characterful face full of personality although it’s not a smiling picture.

“Because I painted it a few years after he passed away I was able to steer away from being overly emotional but obviously there is a lot of affection in it.”

The work – titled Grandfather (Harry) – has been exhibited at the Wausau Museum of Contemporary Art’s International Biennale Portrait Competition for the last three months.

“My Nan (Harry’s widow) is still alive and she has always said Grandad never went to Wisconsin, where the museum is, but he’s there now," she said.

“Her and my mum are very proud – it makes it more special.

“A lot of people have really responded to the painting. The strongest reaction was the woman who started crying – she just felt something from looking at it.”

Mr Smith was one of 11 siblings who grew up in Everton and was a Goodison Park season ticket holder.

He was evacuated to Wales with his three brothers during WW2 but they were split between different foster families, and became so homesick they walked back to Liverpool together.

He worked with his dad for Higson’s Brewery and joined the Army aged 18 in 1944, joining in the Veterinary core where he worked with horses.

Mr Smith also worked at the Automatic Telephone Company, Plessey’s, Fords and in 1967 moved to Winsford where he worked for International Computers Ltd.(ICL)

His portrait is not the only one of Miss Hughes’ paintings with links to the city where her family comes from.

She had one of her University show pieces bought by the Liverpool Women’s Hospital, where it is kept in a collection of art.

Miss Hughes moved to the US to study for a Masters degree at the Wausau Museum of Contemporary Art, but regularly visits Merseyside on trips home to the North-West.

“I love being part of the artistic community over here,” she said. “I have been exhibiting for a while and taking each opportunity as it comes.”

Along with portraits she often paints more figurative pictures, and the paintings she sold at Sotheby’s are from an auction called ‘Take Home a Nude’. 

Published on 16/07/2019