Tuesday, June 11, 2019

Charlie Shaffer wins BP Portrait Award 2019

Charlie Schaffer has won the prestigious first prize in the BP Portrait Award 2019 for Imara in her Winter Coat, a portrait of his close friend.
Charlie Shaffer with his portrait and award for first prize in the BP Portrait Award 2019
Imara in her Winter Coat

(1200mm x 900mm, oil on canvas)

BP Portrait Award - First Prize: Charlie Shaffer

He received the £35,000 cheque for first prize last night from Sandi Toksvig, the guest presenter, at the Awards Ceremony for the BP Portrait Award 2019 at the National Portrait Gallery, London.  He won £35,000 and a commission, at the National Portrait Gallery Trustees’ discretion, worth £7,000 (to be agreed between the National Portrait Gallery and the artist)

The portrait can be seen at the National Portrait Gallery from Thursday 13 June when the BP Portrait Award 2019 exhibition opens to the public. Admission to the exhibition is free.

Charlie Shaffer with (left) Bob Dudley CEO of BP, Sandi Toksvig and right Dr Nicholas Cullinan, Chair of the Judges and Director of the National Portrait Gallery, London

His portrait beat 2,538 submissions from 84 countries.

The portrait: His model is an English Literature student who he met after moving permanently to Brighton. Sittings for the portrait took place over four months. The whole point about the winter coat is that she needed to wear something really warm to cope with sitting in his studio’s cold conditions.

Schaffer set out to paint only Imara’s face, but subsequently added the coat after being inspired by Titian’s Portrait of Girolamo Fracastoro in the National Gallery, London, with its pyramidal composition and the subject’s similar attire.

Why the judges liked it:
  • admired the mannerist style of this portrait
  • considered it had a strong sense of a living presence
‘the skilful depiction of a combination of several different textures including faux-fur, hair and skin are revealed by prolonged looking and together these produce an image that is traditional, but clearly contemporary.’
About Charlie Shaffer: Born in London in 1992, Schaffer studied at Central Saint Martins and then the University of Brighton where he graduated in 2014 with a degree in Fine Art. He has also won the Brian Botting Prize ‘for an outstanding representation of the human figure’ three times.

This is the first time he has been selected for the BP Portrait Award exhibition. Schaffer’s practice is mainly concerned with the act of painting, and how the process that allows the painter and sitter to spend time with one another forms unique and intense relationships.

Charlie looked a tad shellshocked while accepting his award and didn't really smile until he met back up with his partner - when he relaxed!

Charlie Shaffer smiles - with his partner at last night's Awards ceremony

BP Portrait Award - Second Prize: Carl-Martin Sandvold

My photo benefits from Jorge's flash! It was far from this bright.

The £12,000 second prize was won by Carl-Martin Sandvold, (Norway)

The portrait: Sandvold’s self-portrait The Crown is apparently a self-portrait in existential thought.  It apparently reflects his interest in ‘the challenges of life, the strangeness of being alive and other existential issues’. Central to Sandvold’s portraiture is the belief that we are all trying to reconcile the love of life with the knowledge of death, saying:
“The crown symbolises the peak of power, achievement and material abundance. In this portrait, it suggests that none of these things really solve anything.”
Carl-Martin Sandvold (18.06.1981)
The Crown

(500mm x 400mm, oil on linen)
Why the judges liked it: The judges were particularly impressed by the assured handling of paint and keen observation, creating a portrait that had made a memorable impression, and lingered in the mind.

About Carl-Martin Sandvold:  His practice began on the streets of Oslo, where he made urban street art during his teenage years. He began his art training in Norway, continued his studies at the Florence Academy of Art and the Grand Central Academy of Art in New York - and then returned to Florence for a stint at the Charles H. Cecil Studios. Currently, Sandvold’s studio is located on the site of Edvard Munch’s former estate on the outskirts of Oslo.

BP Portrait Award - Third Prize: Massimiliano Pironti 

Massimiliano Pironti won third prize of £10,000 for Quo Vadis? - his portrait of his 95 year old maternal grandmother, Vincenza, a former miller and factory worker. 

Massimiliano Pironti at the Awards Ceremony with a depiction of his painting behind him.
The portrait:  ()The third prize of £10,000 went to Italian artist, Pironti, for Quo Vadis?,
Pironti’s portrait Quo Vadis? depicts his maternal grandmother, Vincenza, a former miller and factory worker now aged ninety-five. Pironti made sketches and took photographs in the kitchen of his grandmother’s home in the town of Gavignano, returning to his studio in Germany for the painting process. Pironti says:
“My grandmother is an example of strength, dignity and authority. Every wrinkle tells her story and I wanted to capture her image to freeze time. This portrait is truly important to me. It touches emotional chords.”
Why the judges liked it: The judges were captivated by the excellent depiction of the subject, in particular the sitter’s hands in contrast with the surrounding textures including rubber, tiles and curtains.

About Massimiliano Pironti: He was born in Colleferro, a town south of Rome, Italy. Pironti taught himself oil painting as a teenager before attending an art school in Frosinone where he focused his attention on portraiture. Painting is not his sole occupation. At the age of sixteen, he began to dance professionally and is now well known in Italy for his performances in musical theatre, including Cats and Saturday Night Fever. Pironti currently lives in Germany where he has been appearing on stage in a long-running production of the Disney musical Tarzan.

I'm very flattered to get in on the act as well. Massimiliano insisted he had his photo taken with me because I was the first person in the UK to write about him and his art - and for somebody who is a full time professional actor, singer and dancer working in Europe - who loves painting, this was a big deal!

Massimiliano Pironti with his portrait - and me
Quo Vadis?
900mm x 600mm, oil on aluminium
You can read what I wrote about Massimiliano Pironti in my last year's post about BP Portrait Award 2018 - Artists with their paintings

BP Young Artist Award: Emma Hopkins

Emma Hopkins at the Awards ceremony

30 year-old Brighton based artist Emma Hopkins won the BP Young Artist Award of £9,000 for the work of a selected entrant aged between 18 and 30

About the portrait: This is a portrait of her friend Sophie Mayanne (a photographer) and her pet dog Carla. Mayanne is known for Behind the Scars, a photography project about people’s scars and the stories behind them. Hopkins’ expertise in make-up and prosthetics has fed directly into her painting.

Emma Hopkins with Sophie and Carla and award
1520mm x 920mm, oil on polyester)
Why the judges liked it: The judges liked the way negative space had been used in the portrait, and how the artist had refreshed the traditional depiction of the nude with an interesting mutual gaze between the artist and sitter.

About Emma Hopkins: She was born in Brighton in 1989 (making two prizewinners with a link to Brighton) and turned to portrait painting after graduating with a degree in Make-up and Prosthetics for Performance from the University of the Arts, London. She is a self-taught portrait painter and now focuses almost exclusively on nude portraits and studies of human flesh.
“I want to understand as much as I can about what it means to be human. We are not just the clothed person we present to the world. We are the mind and body that we inhabit.”
She first exhibited her work in a staff show at the Chelsea Arts Club while working behind the bar. She won the Bulldog Bursary in 2014. She became a member of the Royal Society of Portrait Painters in 2017.

About the BP Portrait Award

The BP Portrait Award, one of the most important platforms for portrait painters, has a first prize of £35,000, making it one of the largest for any global arts competition. This highly successful annual event is aimed at encouraging artists over the age of eighteen to focus upon, and develop, the theme of portraiture in their work.

2019 is the Portrait Award’s 40th year at the National Portrait Gallery and 30th year of sponsorship by BP.
“The BP Portrait Award is one of the most important platforms for contemporary portraiture in the world. BP is one of the longest running supporters of UK arts and culture, and are proud to continue this legacy. We look forward to seeing the exhibition in London, and then Edinburgh and Belfast throughout the year. Congratulations to Charlie Schaffer and all of this year’s prize winners.”Ms Des Violaris, Director UK Arts and Culture BP

The BP Portrait Award 2019 Exhibition and Tour 

The BP Portrait Award 2019 exhibition will run at

  • the National Portrait Gallery, London, from Thursday 13 June to Sunday 20 October 2019 (Admission is free)
  • Scottish National Portrait Gallery, Edinburgh (7 December 2019 to 22 March 2020) and 
  • Ulster Museum, Belfast (April to June 2020).

Blogs Posts about Previous BP Portrait Exhibitions

BP Portrait Award 2019

BP Portrait Award 2018

BP Portrait Award 2017


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

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