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From 1950s Aero girl to John Moores hero girl

£25,000 painting prize for Rose Wylie, 80: artist loved by the A-listers

Written by . Published on September 20th 2014.

From 1950s Aero girl to John Moores hero girl

SHE painted John Terry as King Solomon and Nicole Kidman as a child. Her work hangs on rapper Puff Daddy's wall and fans include supermodel Naomi Campbell and movie star Sienna Miller. 

Yet this hippest of artists is on her third hip replacement.

Eighty-year old Rose Wylie bloomed to critical acclaim late. It was just five years ago that her giant, unstretched canvases began to be seen as seriously cool. "Fresh and cutting edge", are two of the words used to describe her work which even features in garments by fashion label Twenty8Twelve.

Yesterday the hot-shot Kent grandmother was saluted by the Establishment when it awarded her the £25,000 John Moores Painting Prize. 


Wylie's painting, PV Windows and Floorboards, became the 29th winner, announced at Liverpool's Walker Art Gallery from more than 2,500 entries

If there was a Never-Too-Late campaign, Wylie might be its poster girl but it wouldn't be the first time she had featured on billboards. Back in 1956 she was an one of the mysterious "Aero Girls" whose oil portraits were used to advertise the then Rowntree's chocolate bar.

Around 20 canvases of women surfaced at York's Borthwick Institute, last year. It was not known if they were real or imagined until a campaign began for information.

Rose Wylie in 1956, disliked this portrait by Anthony Devas for a Rowntree's Aero advertising campaign: 'It was too chocolate box'Rose Wylie in 1956, disliked this portrait by Anthony Devas for a Rowntree's Aero advertising campaign: 'It was too chocolate box'

It emerged that Wylie sat for celebrated portrait painter Anthony Devas when she was an art student in Folkestone. She never liked the picture. "It just wasn't me, it was too chocolate box," she told Channel 4 when she was identified in March; her daughter had told her about the search.

Now Wylie's face joins the likes of David Hockney, Mary Martin and Peter Doig in a very different hall of fame - the one lined with past John Moores winners.

Her imagery references current affairs, film, celebrity culture, and the media. For half a lifetime Wylie put her artistic ambitions on hold to raise a family, picking up a brush again in 1979 as a mature student at the Royal College of Art.

Her winning
 painting, which features four disjointed female figures set in a linear white gallery space, is typical of her work, say curators. 


Sandra Penketh, art galleries boss at National Museums Liverpool, said: "PV Windows and Floorboards is a striking painting and a worthy winner of the John Moores. Rose's work instantly demanded attention when it entered the judging room and it was clear from the start it would be one of the highlights of this year's exhibition. The painting achieves an interesting balance; containing bold colours and form but also a sense of mystery and an unfinished story. 

"Rose's personal story is very exciting. At 80 years old she happens to be double the average age of previous winners. Her style is fresh, unpredictable and cutting edge, and is everything we’ve come to expect from the winner of the John Moores."

Four shortlisted works for the prize, who each receive £2,500, are: Sometimes I Forget That You're Gone by Rae Hicks; Vinculum by Juliette Losq; Brutal by Mandy; Jessica by Alessandro Raho.

*John Moores Painting Prize, Walker Art Gallery William Brown Street, Liverpool, until November 30. Free.

Half a century of British art


Rose Wylie WinnerRose Wylie's winner was judged anonymously, like all of them

The John Moores Painting Prize is the UK's biggest painting prize. The competition is entered and judged anonymously and open to all UK-based artists working with paint.

The John Moores’ "back catalogue" of winning paintings (most of which reside in the Walker's permanent collection) represents over half a century of British Art; featuring Kitchen Sink realism, abstraction, pop art and figuration. 

Sir Peter Blake, winner of the junior award in 1961, became the first patron of the Prize in 2011.

The John Moores Painting Prize is organised in partnership with the John Moores Liverpool Exhibition Trust.

The John Moores Painting Prize is part of Liverpool Biennial which runs until Sunday 26 October 2014.

The £2014 Visitors’ Choice award, sponsored by Rathbones, will be announced on 12 November.

The five prize winners from the John Moores Painting Prize China 2014 are also on display. 

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Jason PowellSeptember 21st 2014.

there ought to be some kind of democratic organised protest against this enduring fad for 'fresh and exciting' rubbish

AnonymousSeptember 22nd 2014.

Well done Rose. A role model for us all.

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