Tuesday, January 17, 2023

Winners of the National Portrait Gallery's Portrait Award + Commissions

This is a list of 

  • ALL the artists who have ever won the Portrait Award organised by the National Portrait Gallery in London 
  • PLUS a link to ALL the commissions offered as part of their First Prize.
The list of past winners has been removed from the BP Portrait Award website. It's to be hoped that the National Portrait Gallery will provide evidence of who won what and when on a new page on its website at some future date. 

The most successful Portrait Award Artist ever! (see below for why)
Ben Sullivan with Ginnie and 15 month old Edie (at her second BP Awards ceremony!)
Breech! - Winner of the BP Portrait Award 2017
Oil on canvas, 820 x 400mm

Portrait Commissions

The NPG website records one of the original objectives of the Portrait Award - that of developing a programme of commissions of notable people in the UK.
Bryan Organ's portrait of 'Prince Charles', inaugurates an active programme of commissions. Annual Portrait Award for painters under 40 introduced and twelve portraits commissioned from Portrait Award winner s 1980-9 with support from Imperial Tobacco NPG Commissioning Portraits: Chronology 
However, National Portrait Gallery ONLY records 24 artists as Portrait Award Winners - of the 40 artists who have won the Award(!) - who have their commissioned portraits (part of the prize) listed in the records of the NPG's commissions and the permanent collection.

The other artists who won the award are no longer listed. 

Interestingly NOT all winners are invited to produce a commission!  ONLY 60% of artists have been awarded a commission in addition to the cash prize.
  • There has also not been a commission awarded - which has resulted in a completed painting - between 2014-2020 - which seems like a very long time to keep advertising a commission from the NPG as part of the first prize!
  • Typically international artists have not painted a portrait of a 'significant Briton' commissioned by the NPG. This is perhaps more understandable - but it's a penalty of making the competition international 
over time, the number of UK artists being selected for this competition has halved. 40th BP Portrait Award (2019) Shortlist

Portrait Award Winners

'Making A Mark' provides comprehensive records (see BP Portrait Award category) of who won what and when going back to 2008.  

BELOW is a list 
  • The name of the award winner - by Sponsor, Title of the Award and Year
  • The names of artists in bold included embedded links to my reviews of the announcement of the prizewinner
  • identifies the commissioned portrait and links to its page on the NPG website
  • Plus includes videos I made of interviews with award winners in recent years.


The award has had three sponsors to date:
  • Imperial Tobacco
  • John Player & Sons
  • BP
Each of these might be regarded as seeking to improve both brand recognition and reputation by sponsoring prestigious art institutions and awards. It's a fact of life everywhere you go. 
However, the nature of the sponsorship triggered lots of protests in latter years - including the refusal of prizes. It's to be hoped that future sponsors won't generate similar issues.

Imperial Tobacco Portrait Award (1980-1982)

The Portrait Award was inaugurated in Feb 1980, when it was sponsored by Imperial Tobacco. It was a competition for young painters, with a prize of £7000. It was conceived as a way of supporting young artists and encouraging them to take up portraiture. 
NPG - Portrait Award Exhibition records | JISC Archives Hub
1980 - ?
1981 - ?
1982 – Humphrey Ocean (website) b. 1951 - his real name is Humphrey Anthony Erdeswick Butler-Bowdon! Winner of the Imperial Tobacco Portrait Award. He had his first major solo exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery, London in 1984. He was appointed Professor of Perspective at the Royal Academy of Arts in 2012. Work in numerous public collections.

John Player Portrait Award (1983-89)

It was required that entrants must be under the age of 40, and their entries must be paintings in oil, tempura or acrylic and be painted from life with the human figure predominant. The competition is judged from original paintings and is followed by an exhibition of works selected from the entries. Usually about 60 works are chosen to be exhibited from over 600 annual entrants. Each year there are eight prize winners. The first prize also includes the opportunity to undertake a commission for the National Portrait Gallery. The judges for the Award always include the Director of the National Portrait Gallery, the winner of the previous year's Award, a senior executive from the sponsoring company, and at least one figurative artist.  
The sponsorship of the competition was taken over by John Player & Sons in 1984 NPG - Portrait Award Exhibition records | JISC Archives Hub

1983 Michael R. Taylor - (website) Now a member of the Royal Society of Portrait Painters.
1984 – Rosemary Beaton (website) - Studied at the Glasgow School of Art. Whilst still a student in third year she was the first Scot and youngest person to win the prestigious John Player National Portrait Award (now BP) in 1984. 
1985 – Jeff Stultiens - Now a member of the Royal Society of Portrait Painters.
  • Commissioned in 1987 to paint Cardinal Basil Hume for the NPG. 
1986 Ivy Smith (website) - Show paints portraits of large groups of people and has won a number of public art commissions (eg from hospitals)
1987 – Alison Watt OBE FRSE RSA b. 1965 (RSA website) - Studied at Glasgow School of Art. In 1987, while still a student, she won the National Portrait Gallery's prestigious annual award. Now known as a contemporary Scottish painter known for her realistic depictions of drapery and figures and has been an Associate Artist at the National Gallery. Her self portrait (1987) is in the Scottish National Portrait Gallery.
1988 – Allan Ramsay b.1959 (website) - Has exhibited regularly at the RP Annual Exhibition - but is not a member.
1989 - JOINT first prize winners

BP Portrait Award (1990-2020)

(In) 1990....the sponsorship was taken over by BP (British Petroleum). For the first time, the preliminary sift of portraits submitted for entry were judged from actual paintings instead of slides. Also that year, began the BP Travel Awards and the first Travel Award was displayed in 1991.

Since 1996 all the artists selected for the exhibition are invited to submit a proposal for the BP Travel Award, an additional Award which funds artists to work on a project related to portraiture. The results of the project are exhibited as part of the next year's Portrait Award.

In 2007, for the first time, the BP competition was opened to everyone aged 18 and over. The prize money for the Portrait Awards has now increased to £25,000, and there are additional prizes for runners up and the sponsorship makes it possible for the exhibition to be free to the public.

1990 – Annabel Cullen (website)
1991 – Justin Mortimer (website)
  • Commission: Harold Pinter (1930-2008), Playwright, actor and director
1992 – Lucy Willis b. 1954 (website) - elected as an Academicians of  the Royal West of England Academy in 1993. She has tutored regular painting trips abroad for The Artist magazine since 1990. She's particularly well known for her watercolour paintings and has written four books and many articles on painting techniques.
1993 – Philip Harris b. 1965 (website) - Previously won 3rd prize in . Currently lives and works in the New Forest. Had his portrait painting in  'Painting the Century, 100 portrait masterpieces' at the NPG

Winner of the BP Portrait Award 1993
(crop of) Two Figures Lying in a Shallow Stream (1992) by Philip Harris
oil on canvas 72" x 48"
- the portrait I voted for in the competition to find the most popular portrait in 30 years. It made my jaw drop when I first saw it and I've never ever forgotten it

1994 – Peter Edwards
b. 1955 (website) - in 2021 he received an honorary doctorate of arts from Gloucestershire University
1995 – Ishbel Myerscough  (website)
1996 – James Hague  (website) - He's won numerous other prizes including the Royal Society of Portrait Painters RP Award (2019) and the Ondaatje Prize for Portraiture (2018). James is part of the faculty of The Heatherley School of Fine Art and a member of the Royal Society of Portrait Painters and Contemporary British Portrait Painters.
1997 – James Lloyd  (website) - I first got to know James when I did his Drawing a Head classes at the Royal Drawing School where he still teaches.
1998 – Thomas Watson (website)
1999 – Clive Smith (website)
2000 – Victoria Russell (website)
2001 – Stuart Pearson Wright (website) He painted The Six Presidents of the British Academy to win the award - the only group painting to ever win this award.
2002 – Catherine Goodman  b.1961 (website) won the Royal Academy Gold Medal in 1987.
In 2000 she co-established the Royal Drawing School with HRH The Prince of Wales, to address the increasing absence of observational drawing in art education. Appointed Trustee for The National Gallery, London in 2019
2003 – Charlotte Harris (website)
2004 – Stephen Shankland (website)
2005 – Dean Marsh 
  • Commission (2008): Camila Batmanghelidjh - Psychotherapist; founder of Kids Company. I loved the commissioned portrait. Sadly it's now been tarnished due to the fall out from the scandal associated with her charity.  See my blog post about the portrait and the scandal - The Camila Batmanghelidjh portrait at the NPG - and what happened next....
2006 – Andrew Tift (website) - Has worked as a figurative realist artist, specialising in portraiture, for nearly 30 years.

2007 – Paul Emsley b. 1947 (website) - His portrait drawings are impeccable! I also wrote a blog post about him when he was commissioned to paint a portrait of the Duchess of Cambridge - see Paul Emsley and the Duchess of Cambridge - two videos and a drawing

2008 – Craig Wylie b. 1973 (website) - Lives and works in Norfolk.
  • commissioned to paint Kelly Holmes for the NPG (completed 2012)
BP Portrait Award 2008:
Tony Hayward (Group CEO, BP) and Craig Wylie 
- in front of the winning portrait 'K'
copyright Katherine Tyrrell

2009 – Peter Monkman (website) - a member of member of Contemporary British Portrait Painters (CBPP). He has judged a number of competitions including the BP Portrait Award in 2015.
Peter Monkman with his daughter and her portrait
Changeling 2
(oil on canvas, 1220 x 900 mm) 

2010 – Daphne Todd OBE PRPP (website) - She also won Second Prize (when it was called the John Player Award) back in 1983. Became the first female President of the Royal Society of Portrait Painters (1994-2000). Awarded OBE for services to the arts in 2022. See also Daphne Todd wins BP Portrait Award 2010. One of a very few portrait painters who was commissioned to paint portraits for the NPG prior to winning the competition! Also became a judge for the BBC's Big Painting Challenge series.
Daphne Todd with her Last Portrait of Mother

2011 – Wim Heldens b. 1954 in the Netherlands (website) - I was on holiday in France when he won!
2012 – Aleah Chapin b. 1986 in Seattle, USA (website) - first American winner of the award. My video of my interview with her is on YouTube and it's now received over 144,000 views. See also A Profile of Aleah Chapin. Aleah Chapin continues to paint her aunties, cousins, mother and friends; old and new.
  • no portrait commission to date
Aleah Chapin at the BP Portrait Award Ceremony 2012

2013 – Susanne du Toit (website) - I've actually been sketched by Susanne!

Susanne de Toit - Winner of the BP Portrait Award 2013
(left to right:
Bob Dudley, CEO of BP, Sandy Nairne, Director of the National Portrait Gallery,
Susanne du Toit and guest presenter Joanna Trollope holding her Award)
all photos copyright Katherine Tyrrell
2014 – Thomas Ganter (website) - German artist - who exhibits mainly in Germany. See A video interview with Thomas Ganter, Winner of the BP Portrait Award 2014
  • no commission for NPG as yet
Thomas Ganter, winner of the BP Portrait Award 2014
with his winning portrait "Man with a Plaid Blanket"
oil on vanvas 1600mm x 600mm

2015 – Matan Ben-Cnaan b. 1980 (website) - an Israeli painter whose award-winning painting narrated the tragic and harrowing tale of Jephthah and his daughter - within the context of current life. See Video Interview with Winner of the BP Portrait Award 2015
  • no commission / no reference to Matan on the NPG website - which is very odd

2016 – Clara Drummond b. 1977 (website) - Prior to winning the BP, Clara had been selected for a number of exhibitions associated with open art competitions. In 2018, her first book Drawing and Seeing: Create you Own Sketchbook was published by Kyle Books. see also Interview with Clara Drummond - Winner of BP Portrait Award 2016 Video
  • no commission for NPG as yet

Clara Drummond with the portrait which won the First Prize
in the BP Portrait Award 2016
Girl in a Liberty Dress (260 x 370 mm, oil on board)

2017 – Benjamin Sullivan - He was very regularly selected for the BP Portrait exhibition before winning first prize and won 3rd prize in 2016. My video interview is below - see also Interview with Benjamin Sullivan, Winner of the BP Portrait Award 2017 - plus his portraits 2006-2016. Now a member of the Royal Society of Portrait Painters with regular commissions. 

2018 – Miriam Escofet b.1967 in Barcelona (website) - Moved to UK in 1979.  Elected to membership of the Royal Society of Portrait Painters in 2020. Below is my video of my interview with her after she won the award. See VIDEO Interview with Miriam Escofet, BP Portrait Award Winner 2018

Winner of the BP Portrait Award 2018
Miriam Escofet with her mother and Miriam's portrait "An Angel at my Table"

  • No portrait commissioned by the NPG to date.
  • in 2019, Miriam was commissioned to paint a portrait of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II for The Foreign Commonwealth and Development Office - see Portrait of the Queen by Miriam Escofet which describes her process

2019 – Charlie Schaffer b. 1992 (website) - regularly selected for open art competition exhibitions and won a number of prizes prior to the BP Portrait Award.
  • No portrait commissioned to date. 
2020 – Jiab Prachakul b. 1979 (website) born in in 1979 in Nakhon Phanom, a small town on the Mekong River in northeast Thailand. Relocated to London in 2007 and now lives and works in Vannes, France
  • No portrait commissioned to date. 
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)
The last artist who won to be pictured in the gallery with his portrait

Blogs Posts about BP Portrait Award & Previous BP Portrait Exhibitions

BP Portrait Award - General

BP Portrait Award 2020

This was an ONLINE ONLY exhibition
1,981 entries from 69 countries made up of: UK Entries: 917 (46%) and International Entries:1,064 (54%)

BP Portrait Award 2019

2,538 artists submitted a portrait as a digital image to the BP Portrait Award 2018. (2,667 artists in 2018) from 84 countries (minus 4 countries compared to 2018). Of these
  • 290 (11%) made it through the first stage assessment
  • just 44 (1.7%) were selected for this prestigious annual exhibition

BP Portrait Award 2018

The BP Portrait Award 2018 received 2,667 entries from 88 countries. Judged anonymously, 48 portraits were selected for the exhibition.

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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