Monday, April 09, 2018

BP Portrait Award 2018 - The Shortlist

Four artists - three women and a man - have been shortlisted for the First Prize in the 39th BP Portrait Award. They are:
  • An Angel At My Table - Miriam Escofet’s portrait of her mother, 
  • Time Traveller, Matthew Napping - Felicia Forte painting of her partner Matthew DeJong asleep in bed (Instagram)
  • A Portrait Of two Female Painters - Ania Hobson's painting includes a self-portrait and a portrait of her sister in law, Stevie Dix, and 
  • Simone - Zhu Tongyao’s portrait of his Italian neighbour.

An Angel At My Table by Miriam Escofet © Miriam Escofet; Time Traveller, Matthew Napping by Felicia Forte © Felicia Forte; A Portrait of two Female Painters by Ania Hobson © Ania Hobson; Simone by Zhu Tongyao © Zhu Tongyao

The BP Portrait Award 2018

The winner of the £35,000 BP Portrait Award will be announced on 11th June 2018 at the National Portrait Gallery, London.

It must be nice to go to an awards ceremony as a shortlisted artist knowing the worst that can happen is you're coming away with a cheque for a considerable sum of money - somewhere between £9,000 and £35,000.

The prizes for this competition, which attracts entries from all over the world, are as follows
  • First Prize: £35,000 plus a commission worth £7,000 to paint a portrait for the National Portrait Gallery’s Collection, to be agreed between the Gallery and the artist. 
  • Second Prize: £12,000 
  • Third Prize: £10,000.
  • The BP Young Artist Award: £9,000 - to one selected artist aged between 18 and 30 (i.e. born 1988 and after - which means you can work out which shortlisted artists are NOT eligible for this award)
That's a prize post of £66,000 - this is a serious prestigious exhibition from an international perspective.

In terms of the competition as a whole:
  • Purpose: This highly prestigious competition aims to encourage international artists over the age of eighteen to focus upon, and develop, the theme of portraiture in their work.
  • The Entry: The shortlist of four was selected from 2,667 (+ 87) portraits by artists from 88 (+1) countries 2,580 87 countries (the entry is limited to one portrait per artist). 
  • Selected Artists: I shall also be publishing a blog post about the 47 artists whose portraits were also got selected for the exhibition. I'll be doing a brief synopsis of the artist and their work and highlighting their websites. (Why would the Judges choose c.6-8 fewer artists than usual is the question we'll all be pondering over in the next few days!)
Later this week I will start my post profiling the 44 other artists also selected for the exhibition. This year the total number of portraits/artists selected for the exhibition is 48 - which is significantly fewer than usual - even when the exhibition has included enormous portraits.
The BP Portrait Award Exhibition will be on display at the following venues:
It's the 39th year of the BP Portrait Award at the National Portrait Gallery and the 29th year of sponsorship by BP. 

Artists shortlisted for the BP Portrait Award 2018

BELOW you can find PROFILES for each of the shortlisted artists

Miriam Escofet 

An Angel At My Table by Miriam Escofet © Miriam Escofet
An Angel At My Table by Miriam Escofet oil on linen over panel, 1000mm x 700mm
© Miriam Escofet

  • Age: 50 (Born in Barcelona, Spain on 30 May 1967)
  • Nationality: Spanish but moved to UK in 1979 (nearly 40 years ago)
  • OccupationProfessional artist / art teacher
  • Current homeLondon
  • Art education: 
    • 1986 Foundation course at Epsom School of Art & Design
    • 1991 Graduated (BA Hons) in 3D Design at Brighton School of Art - studied 3D Design and specialised in ceramics
  • Previous appearances in this award: four previous appearances
  • Website
  • Facebook Page:
  • Teaching:
  • Title / Media:  An Angel At My Table (1000mm x 700mm, oil on linen over panel)
  • SubjectEscofet’s elderly mother sat at her kitchen table surrounded by tea crockery. The painting suggests a sense of space, perspective and time which conveys the sitter’s inner stillness and calm.
I recognised this painting straight away! I've just dug out my copy of the catalogue for the 2017 Annual Exhibition of the Royal Society of Portrait Painters Exhibition - and I was right! Miriam exhibited a pastel study for this work - which is why it looked so familiar.

Mirian is a very well established portrait painter - and teacher of portraiture. This is the fifth time her work has been selected for the BP Portrait Award - and those who are repeatedly selected very often end up winning one of the top three prizes.  She has also exhibited regularly with the The Royal Society of Portrait Painters and is now an Associate RP. She was awarded the Burke’s Peerage Foundation Prize for Classically Inspired Portraiture in 2015. She has also exhibited widely within Europe.

Escofet says she was also conscious whilst painting that she wanted to
‘transmit an idea of the Universal Mother, who is at the centre of our psyche and emotional world.’
This portrait is not what it seems - metaphor very definitely plays a part. I'm personally completely intrigued by the dishes that are there and not there (see right hand side) - and the little angel figurine which appears to be scooting across the painting from right to left. You'll need to see it up close at the NPG to see what I mean. There's very definitely 'layers' in this painting which are not immediately apparent at first glance. That and the fact that the painting is also meticulous - and I'm talking down to the weave in the linen.....

You can read an article about the paintings and the artist in the publication 1340 art magazine Q4 2017'. An Angel at my Table' featured on the cover and an article inside (pages 24-25) - available on Issuu - and includes a photograph of the artist with the painting part-completed.

Felicia Forte 

Time Traveller, Matthew Napping by Felicia Forte
 oil on linen, 1830mm x 1830mm,
© Felicia Forte
  • Age: 38 (born Los Angeles, 28 December 1979)
  • NationalityAmerican
  • Occupationartist (involving art residences) and art teacher
  • Current home: Lives in Hamtramck, Michigan USA
  • Art educationstudied at the California Art Institute and The Art Students League of New York.
  • Previous appearances in this awardSelf-Portrait, Melting Point was selected for the BP Portrait Award 2015 exhibition.
  • Website:
  • Teaching: Her teaching page covers workshops around the USA; one on one instruction; online instruction. She also describes her process online
  • Title / Media: Time Traveller, Matthew Napping (1830mm x 1830mm, oil on linen)
  • SubjectForte’s sweetheart Matthew DeJong is asleep on a sweltering summer’s day in Detroit.

Her art has been seen in numerous exhibitions in the USA. Forte was Artist-in-Residence at de Young Museum of Fine Art, San Francisco. She also taught with Sadie Valeri in Sadie Francisco and now teaches online and 3 day workshops around the USA.

Forte says she was struck by the beautiful contrasts in the scene - the ‘cool light from the window meeting intense red light from the bedside lamp and the loneliness of the sleeper amidst the festive colours.’ The portrait was the culmination of a body of new work made in residence summer 2017 at Redbull House of Art in Detroit.

I'm personally having some difficulty squaring one of the top portrait prizes with a portrait which does not include a face. There again we have portraits selected before which have only been from the back and not included a face - but top prize. I'm not so sure.....

This is a Savvy Painter podcast which is an interview with Felicia Forte (ignore the woman interviewing who forgets an interview is not an excuse to talk about her own experiences!). She comments about her skills developed significantly after she started teaching and needed to explain what she was doing - and also how her income base settled which made being a painter less precarious. She recommends looking at who gets chosen for competitions and looking at who won the prizes over the last five years. (see links at the end of this post).

Ania Hobson 

A Portrait of two Female Painters by Ania Hobson
oil on canvas, 1600 x 1200,
© Ania Hobson

  • Age: 28 (born 5 April 1990)
  • NationalityBritish
  • OccupationPainter
  • Current homeSaxmundham, Suffolk, UK
  • Art educationdegree in fine art at the University of Suffolk followed by short courses at the Prince’s Drawing School and Florence Academy of Art.
  • Previous appearances in this award: Her very memorable self-portrait, Ania, was selected for the BP Portrait Award 2017 exhibition. (Prior to this her painting of her brother Thom made it through the first round the year before)
  • Website:
    Facebook Page:
  • Title / MediaA Portrait of two Female Painters (1600 x 1200, oil on canvas)
  • Subject: The painting depicts the artist with her sister in law Stevie Dix and explores the relationship between the two of them as painters working in the studio together. 

Ania has been selected for the annual exhibitions of the Royal Society of Portrait Painters and the Society of Women Artists. Her work has also been seen in group exhibitions in the UK.

Her portraits that I have seen often have an unusual perspective and distorts angles of objects within the painting. The one for last year's BP exhibition was very memorable. I've found a photo of her online where she is standing on a box to draw!

For this paintings she has used an upward perspective to allow the viewers eye to map the portrait and convey a feeling of confidence and creative energy which celebrates female painters today.

I love the fact this includes two people - I do moan on and on and on about portrait artists never being proper portrait artists unless they can paint more than one person!  I also recognised Ania's very distinctive style straight away.

She is one of the two candidates for the Young Artist Award - the other is below.

Zhu Tongyao

Simone by Zhu Tongyao
oil on canvas, 540mm x 460mm
© Zhu Tongyao

  • Age: very nearly 30 (Born 15 April 1988 in Jinan, Shandong in China)
  • Nationality: Chinese
  • Occupation: Artist
  • Current home: Florence
  • Art educationattended China Central Academy of Fine Arts and the Academy of Fine Arts of Florence.
  • Previous appearances in this award: None. This is the first time Tongyao has entered the BP Portrait Award.
  • Website: ?
  • Facebook Page: ?
  • Title / MediaSimone (540mm x 460mm, oil on canvas)
  • Subject: Simone, the son of the artist’s neighbours who took care of Tongyao during his stay studying in Italy. 

Prior to this exhibition, Tongyao exhibited in both Italy and China

In 2015, he was awarded first prize in the Florence Biennale - International exhibition of contemporary art.

The work captures a moment when the boy sat down and the sunlight fell on his face, which Tongyao says ‘recalled my cherished memory of happy time spent with his family.

This painting keeps drawing me in. One rarely sees an excellent portrait of an adolescent - and this is very definitely one such. The echoes of past Florentine portraiture also makes this a rather lovely painting - although I can well understand it won't appeal to everyone. This is also by far the smallest portrait of the three.

The Judging Panel

The Judging Panel who selected portraits for the exhibition and the prize winners are
  • Dr Nicholas Cullinan (Chair), Director, National Portrait Gallery. 
  • Dr Caroline Bressey, Cultural and Historical Geographer, University College, London; 
  • Rosie Broadley, Curator, 19th-Century Portraits, National Portrait Gallery; 
  • Glenn Brown, Artist; 
  • Rosie Millard, Journalist and Broadcaster and 
  • Des Violaris, Director, UK Arts & Culture, BP.

BELOW are links to previous posts about the BP Portrait Award 

- AND I've been writing about it since 2007!  

Past prizewinners read my posts before they entered!


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BP Portrait Award 2017

Call for Entries: 
Selected Artists: 

BP Portrait Award 2016

BP Portrait Award 2015

    BP Portrait Award 2014

      BP Portrait Award 2013

        BP Portrait Award 2012

          BP Portrait Award 2011

          BP Portrait Award 2010

            BP Portrait Award 2009

            BP Portrait Award 2008 

              BP Portrait Award 2007

              More information

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