Tuesday, April 23, 2013

BP Portrait Award 2013 - The Shortlist

This year, in a change from previous years, only two artists have been shortlisted for the £30,000 BP Portrait Award 2013 and both have painted portraits of sons and daughters.

Notably both paintings show full figures and not just heads or heads and upper torso alone and it's blatantly obvious that the artist knows the sitter(s).  I'm speculating that we may be calling this the year of the return to the truly observational painting - from life.  Those aspiring to enter next year's competition should take note!  These key points about the nature of the portrait required for this competition are ones I highlighted in my Call for Entries post back in December (see BP Portrait Award 2013: Call for Entries)

Artists shortlisted for the BP Portrait Award

In previous years we have had four artists shortlisted for the first three prizes plus the Young Artists Award.

However this year the prize money has been redistributed so that the first prize money has been increased and the Third Prize has been eliminated.  This means the prizes for the BP Portrait Award are now as follows:
  • BP Portrait Award Winner -  £30,000 cash prize a commission worth £5,000, to be agreed between the National Portrait Gallery and the artist.
  • BP Portrait Award Runner up - £10,000 
  • Young Artist Award - £7,000
  • BP Travel Award 2013 - £6,000
Those in the running for the Young Artist Award (for the work of a selected artist aged between 18 and 30) and the BP Travel Award will find out at the Awards Evening on 18 June who the winner is.  This makes sense to me as in recent years as it's usually been possible to tell who is the winner of the Young Artist Award in advance purely on the basis of age!

As always the panel of judges saw all the original paintings entered. The jury for the awards were:
  • Sandy Nairne, Director, National Portrait Gallery (Chair)
  • David Dawson, Painter and Photographer
  • Sarah Howgate, Contemporary Curator, National Portrait Gallery
  • Victoria Pomery, Director, Turner Contemporary
  • Ali Smith, Author
  • Des Violaris, Director, UK Arts & Culture, BP
Both the artists shortlisted for the 2013 BP Portrait Award 2013 have painted their children. They are:
  • John Devane for The Uncertain Time and 
  • Susanne du Toit for Pieter.

John Devane - The Uncertain Time

'The Uncertain Time
1720 x 2490mm, oil on canvas
© John Devane
Age: 58
Nationality: British
Occupation Head of Department, Design and Visual Arts, School of Art and Design, Coventry University and
Current home: Midlands
Art education: MA (Painting) from the Royal College of Art, 1975, B.A (Hons), Fine Art, Liverpool Polytechnic. 1972, Foundation Course, Blackpool School of Arts and Technology
Previous appearances in this award: In the House of The Cellist (1995)
Website: BBC - Your Paintings - a slideshow of 12 paintings by John Devane
Subject: The Uncertain Time (1720 x 2490mm, oil on canvas).
His large group portrait is of his three children: Lucy, 25, Laura, 20, and Louis, 15 which was painted over the course of three years.  His aim was to show how children emerge from childhood and begin to assert their independence revealing something of their adult selves.

The composition suggests an almost stage-like shallow space constructed in two zones with the three figures presented as if they are awaiting some kind of event.

The artist’s key points of reference are the works of Courbet, Chardin, Degas, Balthus and Samuel Beckett.

John Devane has lectured extensively at various universities since 1980 in Fine Art at BA and MA level.  He's held his present position of Head of Department of Design and Visual Arts since 2004.  He's also active at a national level in the National Association for Fine Art Education (NAFAE).

Susanne du Toit - Pieter

Age: 58
Nationality: South African by birth
Occupation:  Artist
Current home: Crowthorne, Berkshire
Art education: University of Pretoria (mid 70s) and the Massachusetts College of Art, Boston (mid 80s)
Previous appearances in this award:
Websitehttp://www.susannedutoit.com/  You can see more of her portraits
Subject: Pieter (1080 x 830mm, oil on canvas)

1080 x 830mm, oil on canvas
© Suzanne Toit
Her shortlisted portrait is an oil painting of her eldest son Pieter, aged 35. The portrait is part of a series of portraits of her family and the pose was his own.  She has always found hands essential to communicating personality and her only condition of the pose was that his hands would appear prominently in the composition.
I look to the body to provide as much expression as the face. Having said that, the averted gaze of this portrait, which was his choice, struck me as characteristic of his reflective character, and became intensely engaging.

BP Portrait Award 2012 - The Exhibition

The portraits go on display to the public at the BP Portrait Award 2013 exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery on 20 June prior to a tour to two other art galleries in the UK. The dates of the three exhibitions and venues are:
The exhibition will also include a display of the paintings by Carl Randall, the winner of the BP Travel Award 2012.  

He proposed following in the footsteps of the Japanese printmaker Ando Hiroshige (1797-1858). Hiroshige produced a series of woodblock prints on his travels which serve as an artistic document of life in Japan in the 19th Century. Starting in Tokyo and travelling to Kyoto, Randall has also produced a series of portraits depicting locals along the route as it exists today, contrasting with life found in Hiroshige’s time. 
I have visited a cross-section of professions from old and new Japanese society - from salary men in office blocks, to farmers in rice fields; employees of motorway restaurants, service stations and roadside hotels.

Previous Commissions by BP Award Winners

The BP Portrait Award website this year highlights for the first time the type of commissions which have been undertaken by previous award winners.  I think this underlines my point about the artist being able to demonstrate that they can paint more than just a head.

This is the link to the Commissioned Portraits.  Each portrait indicates the sitter and the BP Portrait Award winner who painted it.  The date of the portrait is not the year the artist won the award.

One of my personal favourites is the portrait of Camila Batmanghelidjh by Dean Marsh (see my post about his win - Craig Wylie wins BP Portrait Award 2008.

Previous blog posts about the BP Portrait Award

I know that people reference my posts when trying to decide whether or not to enter.  (Some of them even go on to win prizes!)  So here's the complete list of BP Portrait blog posts.

BP Portrait Award - Shortlisted artists on Making A Mark:

BP Portrait Award 2012
BP Portrait Award 2011
BP Portrait Award 2010
BP Portrait Award 2009
BP Portrait Award 2008<
BP Portrait Award 2007


  1. Splendid post, Katherine....I love the BP Portait Award. The shortlisted two do nothing for me I'm sorry to say, which I think is the problem with portraits. It is not easy to give them general appeal.

  2. The thing I find interesting is that I made the point to the Gallery last year that they should have a prize for a Group Portrait as to my mind it's very much an under-valued skill - and yet something we see quite a lot of in the Gallery itself.

    For that reason I'm leaning towards John Trevane's painting as the overall winner!

  3. I really like both works, I find Du Toit's emotionally strong, reminiscent of Alice Neel, and I hope the people to whom I told a group portrait would win next year will remember about it. I regret I abandoned halfway my original idea for my 2013, a group portrait of my three sons !
    Both shortlisted works are very painterly, I am curious to see the rest of the selection and hope the controversy about big photographic heads will be closed, or better limited to Royal portraits !

  4. I'm very much seeing it as the end of the hyperrealistic BIG HEAD - not least because of the furore about the Duchess of Cambridge's portrait which people criticised despite the fact that it was based on a photograph!

    Thank you for identifying the artist who Suzanne Toit's portrait reminded you of. I had a niggle at the back of my mind but it wouldn't surface - and that was who it was!

    For those who don't know Alice Neel - see the website maintained by her Estate http://www.aliceneel.com/home/

  5. John Devane's portrait really reminds me of Paula Rego's work!! I think it is the adult/teenager sitting on the lap of the other.

    I like both pictures though, a definite improvement (my opinion) on previous years.

    The fact that both shortlisted have painted their children reminds me of this quote:

    "My work is purely autobiographical.. It is about myself and my surroundings. I work from people that interest me and that I care about, in rooms that I know.
    - Lucian Freud"

    I look forward to seeing the exhibition this year - thanks Katherine for the preview.

    Ka Gray

  6. I remember that quote! Spot on Ka!

  7. Hello,

    Any idea as to when the 55 portraits will be posted on the National Portrait Gallery website? I thought that they would be up by now.

    Thank you for your insights, you have a wonderful blog!


  8. I spoke to the Gallery last night and they won't be up for a bit. Expect to see them maybe in a few weeks as they gear up for promoting the Exhibition.


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