A Hampstead artist has scooped first prize in a competition for her poignant portrait of her mother dying in hospital.

June Collier, 80, whose most recent works are inspired by her own time at The Royal Free being treated for cancer, won £4,000 and a year’s supply of Derwent materials for her oil and pencil portrait Hetty in Hospital 1.

She and four others beat off competition from 6,000 entries from 77 countries to win the Derwent Art Prize for the best pencil art worldwide. A total of 68 artworks were shortlisted with five artists awarded prizes at a ceremony on Wednesday 3 April.

June was unable to attend the prize-giving but said: "Receiving this prize means so very much to me. I was afraid I would die without my work being seen. Now I feel that through this it might finally get out into the world and be seen and appreciated.

"It feels as if this moment could be life changing and your engagement feels a very important part in making those changes happen."

Ham & High: Hetty in Hospital 1 won the Derwent Art Prize to find the best pencil works worldwideHetty in Hospital 1 won the Derwent Art Prize to find the best pencil works worldwide (Image: June Collier)

The award-winning pieces will be on show at gallery@oxo until 14th April.

In a video on her website June explains: "This work grew from how I felt as I watched my mother die. I do not have words for this, I was working from feeling and intuition.

"The marks I made were echoing the feeling inside me. This was all a preparation for that extraordinary moment when the final image, just came through me. I had taken many photographs of Hetty at that time and made use of these as I was working."

The four selectors were profoundly moved by the depth of sensibility in the artwork, stirring profound emotion.

"June Collier’s work stood out immediately” says selector Helen Waters. “It’s incredible the way she manages to convey so much emotion with such minimal mark-making.  All four of us were really moved by this portrait.”
“June Collier invites us into her world of personal and intimate moments” adds Curtis Holder. "Her willingness to share such vulnerable experiences, through her beautifully rendered lines and pared-back use of colour, is a testament to the profound power artists possess in conveying emotions beyond the limitations of language.

"We were deeply inspired not just her technical ability, but the skill she showed to evoke such raw and authentic feelings, reminding us of the transformative impact art can have on our lives."

Born in the East End in 1943 June had what calls "a very Jewish upbringing" in Golders Green before studying at the Slade School of Fine Art from 1961-1964.

She taught at Liverpool College of Art then Camberwell School of Art and has exhibited widely, including the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition, the Boundary Gallery, and Camden Art Centre.

She works in charcoal and paint to create layered works which take two to three years to complete. Much of her work is inspired by her own life - stories of her childhood, difficult family relationships, as well as illness and death.