Holly Frean

About the artist

Holly Frean is an award-winning artist whose work incorporates a range of mediums from oil painting to original prints. Holly has developed a unique and technically accomplished style which appeals to a wide range of art lovers and collectors. She has been commissioned by the leading Designers Kit Kemp and Johnny Bowden working in collaboration with a wide range of brands including Burberry, Paul Smith and Anthropologie. She was awarded the National Open Art Competition Painting Prize in 2012 chosen by Grayson Perry and regularly exhibits at the Royal Academy. She exhibits regularly both in the United Kingdom and the USA and commissions include those from the Duchess of Northumberland, designer Betty Jackson, comedians Russell Howard and Ricky Gervais and actor Russell Tovey.


For someone discovering your work for the first time, can you tell them a bit about you, your art and how it began?

I grew up in a highly creative household and have been lucky enough to live as an artist since leaving art school. My parents are graphic and textile designers and I originally thought I would be an architect so I began an architecture degree before I decided it wasn’t where I needed to be, and I quit and enrolled on the BA in Fine Art at City and Guilds of London Art School. I have retained a love of pattern and repetition and a sense for planning, which I think comes from being aware of the built environment from a very young age. Early discussions around the dinner table were all about colour, shape, form, balance, construction, composition, line, tone, materials…

What are your two biggest inspirations?

Certainly my parents, for reasons given, and their library of art books. Closely followed by the many conversations I’ve had with other artists and teachers along the way. I often have imaginary conversations with dead painters too, who often tell me what to do…

What do you want people to think or feel when they see your work?

I want my work to spark in the viewer a sense of awareness of their own self, of others, of their relationships, our place in time, and an appreciation of the formal aspects of painting that I attempt to hold in balance while I work.

What exhibitions have you seen that have left a lasting impression on you?

I saw Lynette Yiadom Boakye’s recent show at Tate Britain three times, Freud’s retrospective last year at the National Gallery was ground shakingly good, Milton Avery at the Royal Academy also last year was also very powerful. 

Do you have a favourite Art Gallery?

The Picasso Museum in Paris always fills me with awe, the V&A is a treasure trove of wonders and so is the National Portrait Gallery - I can’t wait until it eventually reopens.

What is your favourite piece of art by someone else?

It’s different things on different days. The painting that never fails to nudge me back on the path is Velasquez’s Las Meninas. I like usually old, usually large paintings, anything by Paula Rego, Rembrandt, Lucien Freud, Edouard Vuillard, Auguste Rodin, Henri Matisse, and contemporaries such as Rose Wylie, Mamma Andersson, Chantal Joffe.

Holly's works