Sunday, May 12, 2019

Prizewinners at the 128th Annual Exhibition of the Royal Society of Portrait Painters

One of my recurrent themes in recent years has been about how art societies really need to get their acts together and highlight those artists and paintings that win prizes - while the exhibition is current and not past. 

Otherwise it's
  • Neither supporting  the artists;
  • Nor showing courtesy to the sponsors of the prizes - who do like to see some recognition
I'd thought great strides had been made - but apparently not with all societies.....

It's therefore very sad to report that this week the Royal Society of Portrait Painters has completely failed to make any mention of its prizewinners at the 2019 Annual Exhibition - which opened on to the public on Thursday - on

It's a very great pity as these are decent prizes and great paintings - and I'm sure the artists would appreciate a mention. Most of the viewing public - particularly those who buy or commission - are online these days and you can't ignore online!

HOWEVER, The Mall Galleries Blog has posted Introducing the award winners from this year's Royal Society of Portrait Painters Annual Exhibition.

Nevertheless for the sake of completeness I will continue with mine - not least because the link on Facebook to the post kept returning the "This site can’t provide a secure connection - uses an unsupported protocol" message on both Chrome and Safari - before I could get it to show me the post!

In contrast to the Mall galleries blog post, I'm listing the prizes in order of the monetary value of the Prize - and will also add commentary on each one.

The Ondaatje Prize for Portraiture (10,000)

The Ondaatje Prize for Portraiture is sponsored by Sir Christopher Ondaatje CBE OC and the Ondaatje Foundation, this generous prize of a £10,000 cheque plus the Society’s Gold Medal is awarded for the most distinguished portrait of the year.

The winner of Ondaatje Prize for Portraiture 2019 is Peter Kuhfeld RP NEAC.

It's quite the smallest Ondaatje Prize I've seen in recent years. I'd quite got used to them tending to be rather large.  This by way of contrast is a small and quite subtle painting - very unflashy, but interesting nonetheless.

Winner of the Ondaatje Prize 2019
Executive Chef by Peter Kuhfeld RP NEAC
oil, 38 x 38cm (15 x 15 inches) NFS

Interestingly it's a long time since this artist last won a prize (he won the The Prince of Wales Prize for Portrait Drawing in 2002) - although he won a lot while at the Royal Academy Schools. One gets the impression this is not an artist who pursues prizes.

The artist was born on 4 March 1952 in Cheltenham - the only child of a German prisoner of war and an English classical pianist. He subsequently studied art at Leicester School of Art (1972-76) prior to teaching art at Rugby School of Art (1976-1978) and further postgraduate study at School of Painting, Royal Academy Schools then taught at the Royal Academy Schools in 1981. He was elected to membership of the New English Art Club in 1986 and the Royal Society of Portrait Painters in 1992 - from which he resigned in 2005 (according to Wikipedia - although he appears to have returned to the fold at a later date).

Prince Charles has been a patron of his and Kuhfeld painted portraits of Prince William and Prince Harry in 1986. He also commissioned by HRH The Prince of Wales to paint the royal wedding of Prince William, Duke of Cambridge and Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge. In 2009, he painted a memorable portrait of Harry Patch, who was the oldest man in Europe and the last surviving combat soldier of the First World War from any country.

He has accompanied HRH The Prince and Princess of Wales - as a trip artist - on a number of overseas trips in 1990, 1991, 1993, 2004, and 2010. I'd love to see his sketchbooks!

The de Laszlo Foundation Award (£3,000)

The de Laszlo Foundation award, worth £3,000 and sponsored by the de Laszlo Foundation, aims to encourage young artists. It is awarded, together with a silver medal, to an artist under thirty five years old judged to have submitted the best portrait.

The Winner of The de Laszlo Foundation Award 2019 is Joshua Waterhouse who entered his portrait painting via the open entry.  It's a fascinating painting which is part portrait and part still life - with both being painted extremely well. I loved the Holbein blue background.

The portrait is of Jack Stanger, a retired aeronautical engineer.
Commissioned by the Stanger family, the painting depicts its subject tinkering with a grasshopper escapement clock he made from scratch, surrounded by the paraphernalia of an engineer’s workshop. The unusual silhouette in the background is a nod to the engineer’s involvement in Concorde during his career.
Winner of The de Laszlo Foundation Award 2019
The Engineer by Joshua Waterhouse

oil 75 x 92cm (30 x 36 inches) NFS

Joshua Waterhouse is aged 30, was born in Newcastle in 1989 and currently lives in Camden. He did a Foundation in Art & Design at Edinburgh College of Art, followed by studying Fine Art & French at Aberystwyth University, graduating in 2014 with a First Class Honours. He also spent a year in Paris studying Art History at La Sorbonne.

He is a hyper-realist portrait artist and he likes to paint in oil on wood in a highly meticulous way, producing portraits with a heightened sense of realism, where every surface detail is given equal consideration. He divides his time between working on private commissions and independent projects.

Below is a video of him painting the portrait.

The Engineer from Joshua Waterhouse on Vimeo.

The RP Award (£2,000) - on the theme of 'skin'

The £2,000 RP Award is made to the artist whose work best represents the year’s chosen theme – which was Skin.

The Winner in 2019 is James Hague. His work always has a very 3D quality to it due to the way he paints. It also is somewhat like the early work of Lucian Freud who, of course, always loved to seek and find the colour of skin.

His painting suggests a sculptural quality of the skin as well as the body form. What's really interesting is that his painting beat Emma Hopkins - who always paints people nude - and she is one of the shortlisted painters for the BP Portrait Award in 2019 (however he won that award in 1996!)

Winner of the RP Award
Tom by James Hague RP

oil, 114cm x 84cm (45 x 33 inches) NFS

James Hague is 49. He was born in 1970 in Nottingham and studied Fine Art at The University of Northumbria at Newcastle (1989-1993). Later, he did a three year postgraduate degree in painting at the Royal College of Art (2004-2006). He lives and works between East London and Copenhagen.
I like to work from life, this usually involves making a series of drawings and photographs over 3-6 sittings which I later work from in the studio.
Key achievements:
  • In 1996 - before he studied painting at the Royal College of Art(!) - he won the BP Portrait Award.
  • His portrait commission - of Michael Caine (painted in 1998) - now hangs in the National Portrait Gallery. It was painted in Michael Caine's flat in London and was the result of five sittings totalling about 12 hours.
  • In 2006 he won the Lynn Painter-Stainers Prize.  
  • Last year (2018) he won the £10,000 Ondaatje Award making him (I think) only the second artist ever to win the BP Portrait Award and the Ondaatje Award. (The other is James Lloyd)
  • He was recently elected to membership of the RP  but I'm not sure of the date and it's not stated anywhere. 

The Burke’s Peerage Foundation Award (£2,000)

The Burke’s Peerage Foundation Award, established by its co-founders Mark Ayre and William Bortrick in 2015, is presented for Classically Inspired Portraiture in the RP Annual Exhibition. It is presented each year with a certificate and a cheque for £2,000.
The winner of the Burke's Peerage Foundation Award 2019 is Phoebe Dickinson

This painting was submitted via the Open Entry and was also Highly Commended for the De Lazlo Award.

Winner of the Burke's Peerage Foundation Award
Rose at Houghton by Phoebe Dickinson
oil, 152 x 126cm (60 x 50 inches) NFS

Phoebe Dickinson has trained at a number of independent art schools
  • Charles H Cecil Studios, Florence Italy
  • Lavender Hill Studios, London
  • The Prince’s Drawing School — Print Making, London
  • The Heatherley School of Fine Art — Print Making
She has studios in London and Gloucestershire and works to commission - including a series of painting commissions documenting the making of the Downton Abbey series

Key achievements to date
  • To date she has personally curated and held four successful solo shows
  • invited to appear on the Sky Arts Portrait Artist of the Year in 2013 
  • BP Portrait Award 2018: her portrait for the Cholmondeley children at Houghton Hall was selected for the BP Portrait Award 2018 exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery. 
  • She has had extensive press coverage and exhibits regularly - and has exhibited twice previously with the RP

The Prince of Wales's Award for Portrait Drawing (£2,000)

Donated by the Prince of Wales, this Award supports the importance of good grounding in the skills of drawing from life. This Award is for £2,000 and a framed certificate for a portrait in any recognised drawn medium.
The winner of the Prince of Wales Award for Portrait Drawing is Robbie Wraith who has the distinction of having a letter from the Prince of Wales on his website which starts
Robbie Wraith is a remarkable draughtsman. 
So it's not too surprising that he's won this award!

Winner of the Prince of Wales's Award for Portrait Drawing
Esther by Robbie Wraith RP

Charcoal 34 x 30cm (13 x 12 inches) POA

Robbie Wraith had had no formal art education in art schools. Instead he left school at 16, and went to study in Italy at the invitation of Pietro Annigoni.

It seems to have served him well as he has had a very long list of distinguished sitters and he also has work in the collection of HM The Queen as well as more than 40 pictures in the private collection of HRH The Prince of Wales, and also in the Royal Collection Windsor, The Vatican, Chatsworth, The National Trust,The Honourable Society of the Middle Temple, Oxford and Cambridge Universities, Eton College, The MCC, Shell International, Blarney Castle, Fondazione Fremantle Florence, Hoares Bank  – and many others.

He has also had thirty three one-man exhibitions in Britain, Europe, China and the USA.

Contemporary Arts Trust Award (£1,000)

This award of £1,000 is for the most deserving artist in the exhibition (although I'm not quite sure how they define "most deserving" i.e. of what?)

The Winner of the Contemporary Arts Trust Award is Yun Meng (no website) who is a Chinese artist.

Winner of the Contemporary Arts Trust Award
Preoccupied with Something by Yun Meng

120 x 90cm (48 x 57 inches) £7,600
"Yun Meng's painting revealed a lovely portrait of the subject which captured light, feeling and natural expression. Moreover, the skin tone and the figures were beautifully painted."Judith Kellerman, Trustee of the Contemporary Arts Trust

The Smallwood Architects Prize (£1,000)

The Smallwood Architects Prize of £1,000, inaugurated in 2016, is awarded for a portrait in which architectural or interior features play an important part.
I'm bemused by this prize as it seems to consistently ignore (across exhibitions) those that seem to better fulfil the brief as to the criteria for the prize.

Which is not to imply that this is not a good painting just that the background is not that much different that any other sitter - whereas other paintings in the exhibition have much more interesting "architectural or interior features" including one hanging next but one to this portrait.

The winner this year is David Caldwell RP

Winner of The Smallwood Architects Prize
Joe with tattoos by David Caldwell RP

oil, 152 x 101 cm (60 x 40 inches) £2,800
Born 27th January 1977 in Helensburgh, Scotland. Studied art at Glasgow School of Art (1994-98), graduating with a BA (Hons) Drawing and Painting. Followed by The Prince's Drawing School: The Drawing Year, MA level diploma (2003-05). Since then he's been an Artist in Residence at a number of different places. He typically exhibits in the exhibitions for art competitions and art societies featured on this blog.

Direct engagement with his sitters is a key component to Caldwell's work. He says
“A portrait is not only about achieving a likeness but also about capturing the sitter’s individual energetic presence” 
“I want my paintings to suggest the sensation of stereoscopic vision, as the camera lens cannot, and to amalgamate the layers of looking - indeed the layers of time - into one image. Ultimately I would like my work to express the sensation of having been there, of having stood in my shoes.”


The Annual Exhibition of the Royal Society of Portrait Artists:
  • Venue: Mall Galleries - in all galleries
  • Dates: Until 24 May 2019
  • Hours: 10am - 5pm - except open until 7pm on Tuesday 14 and 21 May

Artist Demonstrations

There are RSPP members demonstrating in the Mall galleries next week as follows

In addition, there are also three lectures

More about Past Annual Exhibitions



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