Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Review: Royal Society of Portrait Painters - Annual Exhibition 2013

This is a belated posting of the rest of my review of the Annual Exhibition of the Royal Society of Portrait Painters.  It's essentially going to be a picture post as I'm having a few problems with vision and writing long posts right now. (I think I maybe overdid it a bit last week. I'm also beginning to wonder what it's going to be like after the second eye is done next Thursday!  Hopefully fewer headaches when using my eyes for close work!)

The key points I made a note of were:
  • there seemed to be more of a mix this year between where the work by the RP members was located and where the work by artists from the open entry were hung
Private View of the Annual Exhibition of the Royal Society of Portrait Painters
Main (West) Gallery
  • I really liked the North Gallery.  It seemed to me to be very contemporary and where some of the more exciting and unusual portraits were hung.  It seemed to be very popular and very crowded - at least at the PV!  (I should add the exhibition in the Threadneedle Space was also decidedly very contemporary - you can see images of this in Jan Mikulka wins £20,000 SELF Portrait Prize
Portraits in the North Gallery
    South Wall, Main Gallery
    • By way of contrast, there were a few too many dull corporate portraits by RP members in the main West Gallery .  Maybe it was just that the subjects were a bit more of the grey suit brigade compared to some of the subjects in the North Galley.  (By its nature a lot of work done by portrait artists relates to commissions - find out more)
    • I know I was looking for the knockout portrait - and didn't find one - apart from prizewinners.  However I did like those on the North Wall - they were much more interesting in terms of subjects, composition and colour.
    Portraits on the North Wall of the Main Gallery
    Portraits at the Entrance (see below)
    • At the entrance there was a short run of four smaller portraits which made me linger.  One of them was Anthony William's portrait of Sir Donald Sinden.  I've been studying Anthony Williams paintings in egg tempera for years - the pattern of the mark-making is absolutely fascinating - and always creates a painting with impact and presence.  All the more remarkable for so much of it being done from life.
    (part of) Sir Donald Sinden by Anthony Williams RP NEAC PS
    Full size painting: Egg Tempera 56 x 46cm, 22" x 18"
    • A painting by last year's BP Portrait Award Winner - Aleah Chapin - was also hung.  I knew I was going to see her work again in the UK but hadn't anticipated quite so quickly as she's been having a very successful year since her BP win.
    Maybe we're not so different by Aleah Chapin
    oil 46 x 46cm (19" x 19")
    • It was also interesting to see self-portraits by RP members in the main gallery. I loved the pair of self portraits by John Wonnacott CBE Hon. RP (In case you're wondering, he set up a mirror on an easel in front of a bay window).  He does seem to be a portrait painter who is not satisfied with the ultra conventional (some of you may know him better as the portrait painter chosen to paint the Royal Family for the Queen Mother's 100th Birthday - 'Royal Family, a Centenary Portrait' which you can see in the National Portrait Gallery). I was less wowed by the self portraits by art society luminaries Ken Howard and Jason Bowyer - but suspect that's the coloration of these portraits.  I preferred June Mendoza's portrait of Ken Howard.  It said more about the man.
    Self portrait with white cat - (left) Night; (right) Day
    oil, 152 x 122cm (60 x 48")
    © John Wonnacott
    (Left) Ken Howard at 22, Ken Howard at 80 by Ken Howard PPNEAC, RA RBA ROI RWS
    (Right) Looking (Self portrait) by Jason Bowyer RP, PNEAC, PS
    Ken Howard by June Mendoza
    oil, 168 x 117cm (56" x 46")
    The overall standard of portraits on display has always been high - however it seemed to me that the move to digital entry (introduced last year) and the new prize for self-portraiture this year had yet again upped the quality of the portraits in the exhibition.  Work via the open entry was a very high standard.

    The exhibition continues until 24th May at the Mall Galleries.



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