Monday, December 15, 2008

BP Portrait Award 2009 - Call for Entries

Online entry for the BP Portrait Award 2009 opens today - 15th December 2008.

[Update - this is my December 2009 post about the BP Portrait Award 2010 - Call For Entries]

The annual BP Portrait Award is probably the most prestigious portrait painting competition in the world today. It aims to identify and recognise outstanding and innovative portrait painting by adult artists of all ages, from around the world and to make awards to the very best.

Seraph by Celia Bennett
Oil on canvas on board, 380 x 300mm (15 x 11 3/4")
© the artist /
Image courtesy of NPG Press Office

For artists working in the portrait genre aged over 18 and living anywhere in the world it represents a unique opportunity to display their portrait painting in the BP Portrait Award exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery in the centre of London. It certainly attracts a very healthy level of interest and entries from international artists.

In 2008, 1,750 entries were received of which just 60 were selected. The exhibition was seen by over 175,000 people in London alone and has subsequently been exhibited at the Wolverhampton Art Gallery and Aberdeen Art Gallery - where the exhibition continues until 24 January 2009.


This year, the winners and selected entries will be exhibited at the National Portrait Gallery, London, from 18 June to 20 September 2009 and subsequently in 2009-10 will tour to Southampton City Art Gallery and the Dean Gallery of the National Galleries of Scotland, Edinburgh.

Awards are as follows:
  • the first prize is a cash award of £25,000, plus, at the judges' discretion, a commission worth £4,000, to be agreed between the National Portrait Gallery and the artist.
  • two runner-up prizes (2nd Prize £8,000; 3rd prize £6,000)
  • the BP Young Artist Award of £5,000 for entrants under the age of 30 - which aims to continue to competition's role as a showcase for young artistic talent. To be eligible artists must be under 30 or under on the 1st January 2009.
  • BP Travel Award 2009: £5,000.
Rules and entry forms

You can obtain an entry form by post or complete your entry form online.

In brief the rules are:
  • the competition is open to all those aged over 18 on 1.1.09.
  • the work entered must
    • MUST be predominantly painted in oil, tempera or acrylic. Watercolours, works on paper or pastels will NOT be considered.
    • should be a painting based on a sitting or study from life; the human figure must predominate.
  • artists are restricted to one entry per artist - which must have been completed after 1st January 2008
  • work must be at least 10" x 8" / 25cm x 20cm. Smaller works will not be considered.
  • Those not eligible for entry are employees of the National Portrait Gallery, BP, and their agents, and previous first prize-winners of the Portrait Award since 1980.
  • The entire competition is judged, on an equal and anonymous basis, from original paintings. There is no segregated judging by region or country
  • Entry forms and registration fees must be submitted to the NPG by 15th February 2009
  • There are lots of very detailed requirements as to submission and collection of the actual painting - my advice is to read it all very carefully!
  • International artists should also pay particular attention to their finanicial liabilities and what they are required to do.
  • The Gallery is not be responsible for wrapping works or providing wrapping materials
    for any works being returned to artists located in the UK and charges a fee to international artists.
For those wanting to find out more about artists who have won this award in the past, my information site Portraiture - Resources for Artists now includes a module which provides a complete listing of all the BP Portrait Award winners - then and now. This section of the website lists: 1) links to the image which won the first prize in the BP Portrait Awards (if available - for some reason the NPG website seems to failed to archive some of the exhibitions and winners) and 2) the artist's current website (if available).

The above portrait by Celia Bennett is the painting I most liked in last year's exhibition. I was really surprised having seen it to find it was not one of the finalists and was equally very pleased to see it being used for the BP Awards 2009 page on the National Portrait Gallery website! This is what I said at the time
my absolute favourite was Seraph (which means an angel of the highest rank) by Celia Bennett. It's a relatively small work but it's luminous and really lovely. I really believe in this individual.
BP Travel Award

All 2009 exhibitors will be eligible to submit a proposal for the BP Travel Award. The aim of the Award is to provide the opportunity for an artist to experience working in a different environment, Britain or abroad, on a project related to portraiture which will then be shown as part of the BP Portrait Award 2010 exhibition and tour in 2010-11
Portrait Award 2009
And finally.....this is a story from my blog post about the 2008 Awards Ceremony
One final anecdote.

I was introducing myself to Peiyuan Jiang and his partner and told him the name of this blog. At which point, he beamed at me and told me that he knew all about my blog and had read my previous blog posts about the BP Portrait Award after he failed to get his entry into the exhibition last year! At which point I beamed back at Peiyuan Jiang. :D

So there you go - read my blog posts on the BP Portrait Award (see
below) and you too may end up learning something useful to your advantage!
Craig Wylie wins BP Portrait Award 2008 (a tale from the Awards Night)
Links to past posts about the BP Portrait Award on this blog:


  1. One day, I'll be brave enough to send a portrait in for this. One day...

    And I love Seraph as well. The skin tone is exquisite. I could look at that face for hours.

  2. You've had the same experience I had when I first saw this painting Jeanette.


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