New paintings by artist Eleanor May Watson will celebrate famous Derbyshire women at Dear Reader, an exhibition at the Museum & Art Gallery, Derby from 16 September to 19 November.

The work, produced during a nine month residency as the current holder of the prestigious Jonathan Vickers Fine Art Award, was inspired by Eleanor’s research into the lives of these women across history. The continuing theme of the Award is  A Sense of Place, inspired by the people, landscape and heritage of Derbyshire. For the seventh Award Eleanor was invited to focus on The Changing Faces of Derbyshire.

The Award was established in 1998 with the help of a legacy from the estate of the late Jonathan Vickers, a lifelong lover of fine arts and is managed by Foundation Derbyshire. The Award was first made in 2001 and brings a rising artist to Derbyshire to produce a body of new work inspired by the county’s landscape, heritage and people. The aim is to develop a collection of work by rising artists, which will be recognised nationally and will enrich the cultural life of Derbyshire. Eleanor was selected for the Award in June 2016 from a high quality field, competing against applicants from across the country. She has produced her work at the University of Derby’s Banks Mill studios.

Eleanor said:
Having undertaken  wide-ranging  research I decided to explore the many amazing and diverse female figures from the history of Derbyshire. The exhibition ‘Dear Reader,’ includes a collection of work depicting interiors, landscapes, still lifes and film stills which relate to the life stories of these influential women ranging from historical figures such as Bess of Hardwick and Georgiana Cavendish to contemporary author Joanna Cannon and boxer Juliette Anne Winter.“

Jonathan Wallis, Head of Museums at Derby Museums said:
“It is great to be able to support an up and coming artist as part of the Jonathan Vickers Fine Art Award. Eleanor May Watson’s theme for the exhibition Dear Reader, explores the stories of the women who have shaped the county through time in a way that connects so well with the work of Derby’s most famous artist Joseph Wright.”

Eleanor has also contributed to teaching within the University of Derby’s College of Arts, which has enabled their art students to gain valuable insight from the experience and practices of a working artist.

David McGravie, Head of School of Arts at the University of Derby:
Over the past year, Eleanor has been an inspirational figure to our Fine Art students, visiting our Studios and generously sharing her ideas and working methods, through lectures, workshops and demonstrations. She has been instrumental in giving our students an insight in to what they might expect when they graduate and continue to develop their practice as independent artists. We pride ourselves with preparing our students for a wide range of vocations and careers upon graduation and Eleanor’s presence has helped provide an invaluable focus for this.”

In addition, Eleanor has worked with staff from Derby Museums and Rolls-Royce plc to develop educational resources linked to ‘The Science of Art’ and workshops are now being delivered to local schools by Derby Museums.

During her residency Eleanor has produced a portfolio of new work for solo exhibitions at the Museum and Art Gallery and at Repton School. She will also be exhibiting work at Wirksworth Festival on 9 and 10 September and at Melbourne Festival on 16 and 17 September.