Wednesday, May 04, 2011

Review: Royal Society of Portrait Painters Annual Exhibition 2011 (Part 1)

Tai-Shen Schierenberg, Hon RP has won the Ondaatje Award for the most distinguished portrait in the  2011 Annual Exhibition of the Royal Society of Portrait Painters.

The girl by Tai-Shen Schierenberg

This is a real mark of excellence as the exhibition is a very high standard this year and contains numerous excellent painting and drawings.  In my view this current exhibition is at least as good if not better than the exhibition for BP Portrait Award.  I'd argue it was an exhibition worth going to see if you just wanted to see really good representational painting and drawing.

While the majority of work is by members this is an open exhibition and it also features work by non members.

Today it was the Private View - which is always packed out.

The Private View
This post focuses on the portraits which won awards.  Tomorrow I'll be commenting on the rest of the exhibition.
  • Ondaatje Award - A Girl (oil) by Tai-Shen Schierenberg, Hon RP
  • De Laslo Foundation Award (the best portrait by an artist aged 35 or under) - Matthew - from a series of portraits of Jesus Madrinan  - Martha Zmpounou.  Martha uses Van Gogh watercolours and always paints on HP paper.  She builds up the whole of the work at the same time working from large transparent washes wet in wet through to the detail.
Martha Zmpounou with her portrait of Matthew
54 x 74cm (21 x 29") watercolour
  • Arts Club Award (on year's complimentary memebrsship of the Arts Club ) - was awarded to two artists this year
Phoebe by James Lloyd RP
oil, 180 x 116cm; 71 x 46")
  • Phoebe by James Lloyd RP James told me that ex Slade and Princes Drawing School student Phoebe Boswell (who also has a drawing in the show) is an animator and the drawing at her side is based on one of her animations.
  • Boris Johnson by Helen Masacz - the hair is excellent!  Boris seems to offer endless fascination to portrait artists - I've seen a few of them in recent years.
Boris Johnson by Helen Masacz
oil, 42 x 30cm, (17 x 12")
  • Changing Faces Award - for the portrait that is most powerful on the way that the subject communicates with the viewer beyond the canvas - went to Nicole by Benita Stoney.  Changing Faces is the leading UK charity that offers support and information to people with disfigurements to the face, hands or body, and their families.  The prize is a £2,000 commission to to produce a portrait of a person with an unusual looking face for the Changing Faces Collection.
Nicole by Benita Stoney
egg tempera. 20 x 30cm, 8 x 12"
  • The Prince of Wales Award for Portrait Drawing - for a portrait in any recognised drawing medium - Elderly Man by David Miller RBA.
  • Tim by Clara Drummond
    Bulldog Bursary Winner 2010 - Clara Drummond.  This award provides a bursary of £5,000 to an up-and-coming portrait painter.  The winner is chosen afyer a national call for entries.  the prize also include smentoring by members of the Society.
I don't normally comment on recipients except to say how much I agree with the choice.  However it would be a disservice to the very many fine drawings in the exhibition not to say I was very puzzled by the choice of the drawing for the portrait drawing award.  The judge for the award was Sir Hugh Roberts who is the recently retired director of the Royal Collection and Surveyor of the Queen's Works of Art whose particular area of expertise, according to Wikipedia, is French and English furniture and interior decoration of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.

I shall instead highlight those artists whose drawings I thought very fine - tomorrow!

How to see the exhibition and attend the events

The exhibition is open to the Public: 5th-20th May 2011 between 10-5 (including weekends) and until 7pm Tuesdays.

The events are
  • Thursday 5th May 11am President's Tour - Alastair Adams will take you round the exhibition and talk about the portraits on the wall.  Free 
  • Wednesday 11th May 12noon Demonstration - Andy James will demonstrate portrait painting Free 
  • Saturday 14th May 2-4pm Demonstration - Simon Davis will demonstrate portrait painting Free 
  • Monday 16th May: "Face Facts" (More information)  A discussion with Alastair Adams, David Starkey, Victoria Wright, Antony Williams and June Mendoza.  Recognised portrait artists and distinguished sitters discuss portraiture from the inside.  Tickets £7.50 (Concessions £5)  Please ring 020 7930 6844 or email for tickets

Links to Royal Society of Portrait Painters:
Links to posts about previous exhibitions:
Links re Portraiture:


  1. Wow! I can't wait to see it! It's always a treat and I have observed that the standard has got higher since last year! I really love Tai's portrait!

  2. Hi, Kath!
    Thank you for the great info. Very interesting to look at these paintings and think of Archibald here in Sydney.
    Kind regards, Sadami

  3. I so wish I could have made it :(

  4. alcanzan un nivel "tan alto" que pronto harán inútil a la fotografía

    reach so high standars, so soon photography will be obsolete


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