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Portraits of Distinction - Call To Artists

Alexandra Sitwell
Alexandra Sitwell

Artists from Sheffield and beyond are invited to take part in this year’s Portraits of Distinction competition, as part of the annual Art in the Gardens festival.

This year’s contest officially opens today (Monday, 1 June), with the subject being Alexandra Sitwell, owner of Renishaw Hall and daughter of the late Sir Reresby and Lady Sitwell.

The Sitwells have lived at Renishaw Hall for almost 400 years and have always been avid collectors and patrons of the arts.

Photographer Trevor Neal has taken more than 100 shots of Alexandra in the spectacular surroundings of Renishaw Hall. Competition entrants should pick up one of the photographs from Sheffield Town Hall, and then produce their portrait in time for the Art in the Gardens event at the Botanical Gardens in September.

Mr Neal said: “Alexandra was a real treat to work with and gave generously of her time in the magnificent interiors and gardens at Renishaw Hall.

“The location provided an inspirational backdrop to our two-hour photo shoot and I'm sure it will be a very enjoyable and challenging task for the participating artists.

“It was also a great personal pleasure to return to Renishaw Hall, the location of my first retrospective exhibition in June 1995.”

Celebrating its twelfth anniversary, Art in the Gardens will fill Sheffield’s Botanical Gardens with around 300 artists and craft workers, exhibiting more than 4,000 pieces of their work, on Saturday, 5 September and Sunday, 6 September.

The Portraits of Distinction competition will be judged by Alexandra herself during the event.

Previous well-known names who have been the centrepiece of the competition include Pulp drummer Nick Banks, television presenter Bradley Walsh, former Coronation Street actor Bruce Jones, music icon Dave Berry, artist Joe Scarborough, BBC weather presenters Paul Hudson and Lisa Gallagher, the Earl and Countess of Scarborough, Olympic high diver Monique Gladding and BBC Radio Sheffield’s Toby Foster and Rony Robinson.

Each year, visitors come from across the country to view the top-quality work at Art in the Gardens, the North of England’s largest outdoor art show.

The range of creativity on display includes photography, ceramics, textiles, print making, leatherwork, wood turning, glass work, jewellery, and sculptures in metal, wood, and stone.

There is also a dedicated children’s area, a stage with musical performances throughout the weekend, an Open Art Exhibition, artists, a bustling market and the gardens themselves to explore and enjoy.

Councillor Isobel Bowler, cabinet member for neighbourhoods at Sheffield City Council, said: “As the biggest outdoor arts and crafts show in the North, the quality and sheer scale of Art in the Gardens is one of the main reasons that people come back year after year.

“A programme of entertainment, activities for all the family, and a craft market mean that even those who don’t consider themselves to be art buffs will find Art in the Gardens to be a fantastic day out.

“And that’s even before you consider one of the biggest draws of all – the beautiful Botanical Gardens itself with its myriad delights, including the hidden Bear Pit, which will once again be playing host to artworks during the festival.”

The weekend kicks off with a Preview Evening taking place on Friday, 4 September, between 6.30 and 9.30pm, where guests will be treated to an evening with premier artists.

Art in the Gardens is grateful for the support of sponsors Haybrook, Heart and Henry Boot PLC.

For more information visit