Wednesday, October 08, 2014

A new £15,000 prize for portrait painting

The Royal Society of Portrait Painters have announced a new £15,000 prize for portrait painting. You have just three months to paint a submission!
  • The prize will be called "Conversations". 
  • The intention is that it focuses on portraits involving more than one person.
£15,000 for the best work interpreting the theme of a conversation piece, including two or more figures.
  • It's sponsored by 7IM, an investment management business.
I'm absolutely cockahoop! I'm very keen on the introduction of a significant prize which recognises the skill required to create an effective portrait involving more than one person.

To this end I've been lobbying quietly behind the scenes with "people who matter" for the last 2-3 years to try and make this happen. To say I'm pleased is very much an understatement!

My rationale was that very many of the great paintings of the past involved groups of people and yet, when you view portrait paintings today, too often they are portraits of individuals. It's as if everybody lived in a world on their own and interaction never took place or wasn't important.

I also believe that this is a particularly important form of portrait painting as a significant number of private commissions for portraits involve more than one person. Hence creating interesting and effective portraits of multiple figures ought to be a skill acquired by every practising professional portrait painter.

I think those artists who may well edge ahead in this competition will be those who ponder on how interaction in contemporary life might best be represented in their portrait paintings for this prize. The sort of painter who reflects on how we talk with one another today and who bring the conversation piece paintings of artists like Zoffany bang up to date.

"Conversations" - Call for Entries

Who can enter

Any artist over the age of 18 years of age. There is no limitation on where the artist lives or works.

What can you enter

The new prize aims to inspire new paintings which depict and encourage interaction. This is defined as
the winning work (will be) a scene of two or more figures interacting, with each other and/or with the viewer
Another word for this might be "a conversation piece" however there are different ways of interpreting what this might mean in today's society.

The sponsors commented
“We are very pleased to be supporting the Royal Society of Portrait Painters and sponsoring The ‘Conversations’ Prize. The team at 7IM and the RP artists both have a huge interest in people’s conversations. From conversations we get to understand people, what drives them and what makes them happy; artists use this insight to express their understanding in a way that connects with the viewer; we use that insight to make sure we manage our clients’ capital to meet their needs..” Conversations are at the heart of everything we do, with our clients and for our clients, so it seems very fitting to be sponsoring this prize.”
Justin Urquhart Stewart, 7IM
Note that (drawings? and ) paintings can be in any media but should not be bigger than 2.4m along the longest dimension


How to enter

  • Entry is via registration and the submission of a digital file at
  • Overseas artists should make a point of reading the note about how VAT operates in relation to artists domiciled outside the UK
  • For full terms and conditions, click here.

Entry fee

Entry fees vary according to the age of the artist:
  • Submission fee £15 per work 
  • or £10 for artists aged 35 or under


The new prize will form an important part of the suite of prizes linked to the prestigious annual exhibition of the Royal Society of Portrait Painters. All the shortlisted works will be exhibited alongside the works selected for the Royal Society of Portrait Painters Annual Exhibition at the Mall Galleries, London in April 2015.
“We hope to attract some very interesting works, offering artists the challenges of a complex piece.”
Robin Lee-Hall


  1. How exciting! Lots of ideas for conversations.

  2. I'm excited about this new "Conversations" prize for the Royal Society of Portrait Painters, focusing on interactions between people! Thanks for for lobbying for this new emphasis! I've been developing a new body of work that focuses on connections between people, so I'm looking forward to submitting to this years exhibition. I love your blog by the way, I'm in Seattle, USA, and by following you, I enjoy the British art world from across the pond.


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