Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Ben Sullivan wins BP Portrait Award 2017

Benjamin Sullivan has finally won First Prize in the BP Portrait Award 2017 - after winning Third Prize in 2016 and being previously selected for the BP Portrait Award 12 times.  

Team Sullivan - portrait painter Ben Sullivan with the BP Portrait Award (First Prize)
his two models - wife Ginnie and daughter Edie
The winning portrait was selected from strong competition - 2,580 entries were received from 87 countries

Below is a list of the Awards and who won what.  You can read more about each of the artists in the profiles contained in BP Portrait Award 2017 - The Shortlist

Giving the BP Portrait Awards a final polish
Interestingly, all the sitters for the main prizes were women and the First and Second prizes were both portraits of new mothers.  All the winning portraits are also very precise paintings - with both the second and third prize winners using very small hatching marks.

Admission to The BP Portrait Exhibition is free to the public. It can be seen at the National Portrait Gallery in London on 22 June until 24 September - when it will get about 300,000 visitors - after which it will then travel to Exeter, Edinburgh and Sunderland. (see below for details).

First Prize (£30,000 + commission) - Benjamin Sullivan RP

The winner of the First Prize is Benjamin Sullivan RP, NEAC (age 40). This is his daughter Edie's (age 15 months) second prize-giving ceremony and she behaved impeccably on the platform as she did last year!

Ben has a terrific and record-breaking track record of being selected to exhibit in the BP Portrait Exhibition. He's been  selected 12 times prior to 2017 (in 2002 and then continuously 2006-2016). In 2008, the NPG commissioned him to paint a portrait of the cosmologist and astrophysicist Professor Martin Rees.

He studied painting & drawing at Edinburgh College of Art, graduating in 2000. He was elected a member of the Royal Society of Portrait Painters in 2003 and NEAC in 2001.

I first came across his amazing portrait paintings when he won the Lynn Painter Stainers Prize in 2007 - with another portrait of his wife Ginnie in a dressing gown!

Ben Sullivan and his daughter Edie being presented with the First Prize
(left to right: Bob Dudley, the Group Chief Executive of BP, Nicholas Cullinan, Director of the NPG
and Mariella Frostrup - the presenter)
Breech! depicts the artist’s wife Virginia breastfeeding their eight-month-old daughter Edith, at a time when ‘a sense of calm descended after the usual period of disarrangement that new parents face.’ His aim was to celebrate the love that had come into their lives and reflect on the worrisome time the couple faced during Edith’s birth.

The painting was made over four to five weeks in Ben's studio when Edie agreed to co-operate.

Ben Sullivan with Breech! and wife Ginnie and daughter Edie (age 15 months)
Breech! (January 2017) © Benjamin Sullivan
(820 x 400mm, oil on canvas)
Judges Comments: The judges were particularly struck by the tenderness and intimacy of Sullivan's composition, evoking Madonna and Child paintings through the ages and the depth of the maternal bond. Commenting on the portrait, Kirsty Wark said ‘The woman is tired. She is in love. Her life has changed forever. We know her.’
This is what I wrote about Ben when profiling the shortlist.
I've had Ben Sullivan 'tagged' as a future BP Portrait First Prizewinner for as long as I've been writing this blog and covering this competition!

He paints absolutely beautifully and also captures extremely good likenesses of everybody he paints.

He's exhibited in the BP Portrait Exhibition every year since 2006. I love the fact that in addition to his regular commissions, he also paints his family. It was wonderful to finally meet up with Ginnie and Edith, their new baby, at last year's Awards Ceremony when Ben won 3rd Prize. She was such a big hit with everybody, I'm not in the least bit surprised in the choice for this year's portrait!
Below is that absolutely mind-numbing moment every first prizewinner experiences - when Mariella Frostrup started reading the introduction to the artist winning second place - and she said 'French' - meaning Ben knew he had won first prize!

The moment of realisation
Then, having won the prize, there's photos and then Ben gets introduced to John Glen MP, the brand new Parliamentary Under-Secretary at the Department for Culture, Media and Sport - (the new Arts Minister). Points for all those who recognise the artist and former BP Portrait winner in the background.

Ben Sullivan talks to the new Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Culture, Media and Sport)

Second Prize (£10,000) - Thomas Ehretsmann

Thomas Ehretsmann with his wife and portrait of her
Double Portrait (November 2016) © Thomas Ehretsmann

(300 x 400mm, Acrylic on board).
The second prize of £10,000 went to Thomas Ehretsmann who is a French painter and illustrator.  He has previously been selected for the 2016 Exhibition.

His portrait is of his wife and the title Double Portrait reflects the fact she was pregnant at the time (and has since had a daughter).
Judges Comments: The judges were particularly impressed by the artist’s refined and detailed technique, which adds to the subject’s sense of stillness, strength and serenity. 
Presentation of the Second Prize to Thomas Ehretsmann

Third Prize (£8,000) - Antony Williams

Antony Williams
Emma (March 2016) © Antony Williams

690 x 560mm, Egg tempera on board)
Antony Williams won the Third Prize for Emma his portrait of model turned friend, Emma Bruce. The painting is in egg tempera and was completed in his studio in Chertsey.
Judges Comments: The judges appreciated how the artist’s intimate and distinctive technique lends the sitter’s form an almost sculptural density and solidity.
Antony has been selected for previous BP Portrait Award exhibitions in 1995, 1998, 2005, 2007, 2010, 2014 and 2015. In 2003, the National Portrait Gallery commissioned him to paint a portrait of Amartya Sen for the National Portrait Gallery Collection.

Presentation of the Third Prize to Antony Williams

The BP Young Artist Award (£7,000)

Henry Christian-Slane
Gabi (oil on board) © Henry Christian-Slane

The BP Young Artist Award is for the work of a selected entrant aged between 18 and 30.

This year the award - worth £7,000 - has been won by 26 year old New Zealand artist Henry Christian-Slane for Gabi, a portrait of his partner Gabi Lardies.
Judges Comments: The judges felt this sensitive painting captures a moment in time and a casual, fleeting expression, rather than the ‘held’ pose more usual in formal portrait painting.
This is a link to the portraits on his website

Presentation of the Young Artist Award

The BP Travel Award 2017 (£6,000)

The BP Travel Award is an annual prize to enable artists to work in a different environment on a project related to portraiture. The prize of £6,000 is open to applications from any of this year’s BP Portrait Award-exhibited artists, except the prize-winners.

Presentation of the BP Travel Award 2017 to Casper White

This year the winner of the BP Travel Award 2017 is Casper White. His proposal is that he creates works about music fans in clubs and concert venues in Berlin and Mallorca in order to represent an often youth-related subculture that is not traditionally recorded in portrait paintings.

There was much amusement when Mariella Frostrup on completing reading out his proposal for the award turned to Casper and said "So basically you're going on a rave?"

The Exhibition

The BP Portrait Award Exhibition will be on display at the following venues:
  • National Portrait Gallery, London all summer. It opens to the public on 22 June and continues until 24 September 2017 (Admission Free)
  • Royal Albert Memorial Museum and Art Gallery Exeter (4 October – 3 December 2017); 
  • Scottish National Portrait Gallery, Edinburgh (December 2017 – March 2018); 
  • Sunderland Museum and Winter Gardens (March – June 2018.)
2017 marks the Portrait Award’s 38th year at the National Portrait Gallery and 28th year of sponsorship by BP.

The prize winners and exhibition were selected by a judging panel chaired by Dr Nicholas Cullinan, Director, National Portrait Gallery. The full panel included Camilla Hampshire, Museums Manager and Cultural Lead, Royal Albert Memorial Museum and Art Gallery, Exeter; Michael Landy, artist; Kirsty Wark, broadcaster; Sarah Howgate, Senior Curator, Contemporary Collections, National Portrait Gallery; and Des Violaris, Director, UK Arts & Culture, BP.

More about the BP Portrait Exhibition

Don't forget to check back this week to read more about this very prestigious competition. As per usual, this week I will be doing a series of blog posts about the exhibition including:
  • video interviews with the prizewinners 
  • photos of artists with their paintings 
  • my selection of the best of the rest 
  • a review of and video walk around the exhibition 

Previous posts about the BP Portrait Award 2017

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