Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Daphne Todd wins BP Portrait Award 2010

Daphne Todd PPRSPP, NEAC - the Past President of the Royal Society of Portrait Painters - has won the £25,000 BP Portrait Award 2010 with Last Portrait of Mother - her painting of her mother Annie Mary Todd on her deathbed.  She also wins a commission worth £4,000

Daphne Todd with her award in front of Last Portrait of Mother
copyright: artwork - Daphne Todd / photo - Katherine Tyrrell 

This was the third time Daphne Todd has been selected for the Portrait Award exhibition.  In 1983, she won the second prize in John Player Portrait Award (now the BP Portrait Award) and was commended in the following year.  She stopped entering when she was no longer eligible (when entry was restricted to those under the age of 40)

In her speech on receiving the award she highlighted how her career has been a prime example of the benefit that this very prestigious award can bestow on those shortlisted for a prize as well as those who win it.  It enabled her to give up work and become a full-time artist and she subsequently became the first woman President of the Royal Society of Portrait Painters.

She also commented on the support given to the portrait award by BP and thanked the company for their continuing support in this the 21st year of the BP Portrait Awards.  She made the point that art competitions simply could not and would not exist without sponsorship.  Sponsorship for a prestigious art competition which helps an artist's career is always much appreciated.  As she wryly commented - with her past experience of being involved in such matters - one has to look for sponsorship whereever the money is and if not BP then one would need to look to the Banks! 

Last Portrait of Mother

Her mother lived with her for the last 14 years of her life and celebrated her 100th birthday prior to her death last year.  Daphne Todd had painted her mother many times over the years but her mother never liked the results - possibly because the portraits were too realistic.  Neveretheless she'd given her daughter permission to do the portrait before she died.
Realistic painting can often be quite cruel
Daphne Todd

We talked about her habit of painting from life and Daphne Todd commented that this is a "painting from death".  Her mother has died and is lying on her cushion in the refrigerated room of the undertakers.  In practical terms it meant she had to work quickly while the body started to change and she managed to complete the portrait in just three days of solid work.  Her portrait reveals the distortions of a body affected by osteoporosis, the stomach is filling with gas and turning green and her skin is becoming transparent. 

I asked her why she had painted her mother in this way.  There were two reasons.  First it was primarily about coming to terms with her mother's life ending; second, because she was simply curious about what death actually looked like.  She's previously only seen people who had died after they had been prepared for viewing by the undertaker.  She had absolutely no plans for the painting beyond actually doing it.  A friend visiting her studio had seen the painting and prompted the entry.  She'd had absolutely no expectations of being shortlisted never mind winning - she saw herself only as some sort of notional 'older artist'.

As I talked to her about the experience, she leaned across and patted her mother on the arm - in thanks.

 Last Portrait of Mother
650mm x 920mm, oil on wooden panels 
copyright: artwork - Daphne Todd / photo - Katherine Tyrrell

Other prizewinners

I'll be doing more posts about the other prizewinners but here are the results in brief:
The exhibition  

The exhibition of portraits by the winners and selected entries will be at the National Portrait Gallery, London until 19 September 2010 after which it goes on tour to:
You can also see a video of the entire exhibition

(Note: This post has been revised and updated following the original posting on Tuesday night)

Making A Mark Archive of BP Portrait Award posts

BP Portrait Award 2010
BP Portrait Award 2009 
BP Portrait Award 2008   
BP Portrait Award 2007    
 Links:  Resources for Artists - Portrait Competitions


    1. What a powerful work - it takes me instantly back to the loss of parents.It shows so vividly the loss of the body yet also shows somehow the life that existed. I don't know how else to express my thoughts but I'm deeply moved.

    2. What a striking portrait this is.

      Once the initial realization that I'm looking at imminent death recedes, I can marvel at the shapes and colours that bring this piece to beauty.

      I commend the jury for appointing this piece as winner.

      Another artist that I've come across, but of which there is little information online is Janvier Rollande from Maine. She did a similar piece but in graphite of her dying mother.

    3. This is a link to the drawing by Rollande that I mentioned in the previous post http://thephoenix.com/boston/arts/48203-graphite/

    4. Jeannette,

      Thank you for mentioning my drawing of my mother on her death bed: Adieu Maman. I'm also very moved by Daphne Todd's painting and commend her for her courageous portrayal.

      Janvier Rollande


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