Wednesday, May 02, 2012

Antony Williams wins Ondaatje Prize 2012

Winner of the £10,000 Ondaatje Prize and Gold Medal of the Royal Society of Portrait Painters
Rt. Hon Margaret Beckett MP by Antony Williams RP PS NEAC

egg tempera, 137 x 111cm (54 x 43 inches)
© Antony Williams
The Ondaatje Prize

Today, at the 121st Annual Exhibition of the Royal Society of Portrait Painters Antony Williams's marvellous egg tempera painting of Margaret Beckett won the £10,000 Ondaatje Prize and another gold medal - for the most distinguished portrait in the exhibition.

Just over a month ago I wrote Antony Williams wins Lynn Painter-Stainers Prize 2012 on this blog.  That won a £15,000 prize and a gold medal.

So I declare Antony Williams an Olympian painter in this Olympics year - two gold medals under his belt in just over a month is some feat in the painting world.  I'm sure the £25,000 ($40,000+) will also come in handy!

Rt. Hon Margaret Beckett MP (crop)
by Antony Williams RP PS NEAC
egg tempera
© Antony Williams
To my mind the prize is amply justified - the painting is stunning and his skills in observation and painting in egg tempera are exemplary.  It's a fabulous painting - huge attention to detail but also to humanity and character.

For those not familiar with egg tempera this painting is created from a huge number of individual brush marks which are all individually delineated in the painting.  You can see precisely how it builds up to the whole.

I was able to have a brief interview with Antony and asked him about his recent successes, his approach to painting and whether he had any tips for success for those portrait painters who are starting out.

Tips for aspiring portrait painters

Antony works in egg tempera in natural light.  He buys his pigments from L Cornelissen & Son and then mixes it with egg yolk to create his egg tempera paint.

In terms of tips for aspiring portrait painters
  • Antony finds that working on about 4-5 paintings at any one time suits him best.  Each gets about a day a week.  That way he remains engaged with the work and doesn't get bored.  Sometimes he has to work to a deadline and then it can get quite bit intense as he works more on just one painting - as he had to do with the portrait of Margaret Beckett.
  • He recommends checking out who is on this year's panel of judges of an art competition this year and whether they seem likely to be sympathetic to your work
  • It's not his practice to paint for a competition although he knows some artists do.  He enters whatever is available at the time - and then it's down to the selectors.  Interestingly he regards his recent win of the Lynn Painter Stainer Prize as entirely accidental! He only entered because one of his models was entering.
  • Perseverance as a quality and and intense observation as a skill are both attributes that portrait painters need to develop.  Portrait painting is hard work and you need to keep going!
I'll be writing about the Annual Exhibition tomorrow.  Suffice to say for now that competition for a place on the wall was intense and I highly recommend visiting the exhibition.

The exhibition runs until 18th May at the Mall Galleries just off Trafalgar Square.

The winners of other prizes at the exhibition are detailed below.

The Changing Faces Prize
The new Changing Faces Prize is awarded to the artist whose portrait best conveys the energy of their subject, the directness of their gaze and an attitude that exudes openness and confidence. The Prize is a £2,000 commission for the collection which aims to show the public that a person’s distinctive scar colourful mark or unusual feature is just one part of their overall picture.
Mark Roscoe (non-member) won the Changing Faces Prize.  His painting is of the British Anaesthetist and inventor of the Laryngeal Mask Airway, Dr Archie Brain.

Winner of The Changing Faces Prize 2012
Dr Archie Brain by Mark Roscoe (commission)
oil, 82 x 102cm (32 x 40inches)
© Mark Roscoe
The Prince of Wales’s Award for Portrait Drawing 

The Prince of Wales's Award for Portrait Drawing supports the importance of good grounding in the skills of drawing from life this Award is for £2,000 and a framed certificate.

The Award for 2012 was won by Anthony Connolly. Untitled is an etching in an edition of 25.

Winner of The Prince of Wales's Award for Portrait Drawing
Untitled by Anthony Connolly

edition of 25
50 x 40cm 20 x 16 inches
The De Laszlo Prize for Outstanding Portraiture 
The de Laszlo Foundation award, sponsored by the de Laszlo Foundation, aims to encourage young artists.  It is worth £3,000 and is awarded, together with a silver medal, to an artist under thirty five years old judged to have submitted the best portrait.
The De Laszlo Prize for Outstanding Portraiture was won by David Sargerson (open entry).

The Winner of De Laszlo Prize for Outstanding Portraiture 
DS by David Sargerson
oil, 100 x 80cm (39 x 31 inches)
© David Sargerson
This week I'll be posting about the RSPP exhibition, the portraits of the Queen which are in the exhibition and a new Prize for next year.

Links to previous posts about prizewinners

Note: I have two sites for those interested in portraiture and painting in Egg Tempera - listed below


  1. Some cracking portraits on show, hopefully one day I will visit the exhibition.

    Although Antony Williams portrait of Margaret Beckett is clearly very accomplished I can't help but think it looks a bit flat, especially in the face. Maybe it's just the photograph and really I need to see the painting in person but for me some of the other winners are more successful.

    1. If you don’t manage to see the exhibition at the Mall Galleries, on May 21st Antony’s portrait will be back on permanent display at the House of Commons. Tours of Parliament’s contemporary portrait collection are available -

  2. The face is fine - as always photos cannot represent the quality of a painting - which is why we need paintings! :)

    I'm not sure she has the sort of complexion which can take quite so much red but since this is a political painting I guess she's supporting the party!

  3. I've added in a crop of the face so you can see it more clearly. As you'll appreciate it's very subtle and nuanced. Finesse is a good word to use....

  4. The face certainly is very subtle (thanks for posting the detail). It's very hard to say from photos but maybe the range of values in the face is not as wide as those in the body. I believe R.H. Ives Gammell's statement in his book 'Twilight Of Painting' if a painting does not read well in black and white then you have problems, might apply to this portrait.

    In my very humble opinion, I would have created more depth by darkening the wood panel background in the hope of bringing the highlights in the face forward. However this is most likely the illustrator in me wanting to make the changes and if you say the face is fine that's good enough for me! :-)


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