Thursday, May 30, 2024

Archibald Prize 2024 Finalists announced + Packing Room Prize

 The finalists for The Archibald Prize 2024 have been announced. 

The Archibald Prize is awarded annually to the best portrait, 'preferentially of some man or woman distinguished in art, letters, science or politics, painted by any artist resident in Australasia’.

The Archibald Prize for portrait painting is Australia’s most celebrated and democratic – sometimes controversial – art award. Open to any artist living in Australia or New Zealand, since 1921 it has reflected the unique experiences of the people who live in this region, highlighting figures from all walks of life. 

Some Archibald Prize Facts

  • there were 1005 entries from artists resident in Australia (i.e. don't even think about entering next year's competition unless you live in Australia!)
  • of these 57 artworks were selected as finalists for the Prize and will be hung in the exhibition. That's 5.6% of the entry.
  • the entries were judged and the finalists were selected by the trustees of the Art Gallery of New South Wales
  • the winner of The Archibald Prize will be announced on 7th June 2024.
  • the exhibition will be open at the Art Gallery of New South Wales between 8 June – 8 September 2024
You can VIEW ALL THE FINALISTS ONLINE. See if you can work out who has won!

Sitting here in London I'm looking at the finalists' artwork and wondering who on earth are the sitters. That's not to say I might not also have a view about the portraits irrespective of not knowing the sitters or the artists!

Interestingly, the portraits are not at all conventional and indeed many of them might be termed "very contemporary". 

The Packing Room Prize

Winner: Packing Room Prize 2024
Rhythms of heritage by Matt Adnate
spray paint and synthetic polymer paint on linen
220 x 188.5 cm (86 inches x 75inches)

In the meantime, the Packing Room Prize has been announced

The 2024 Packing Room Prize has been awarded to 'Rhythms of heritage' by Matt Adnate who normally creates very large scale murals and who has been a finalist multiple times in prestigious art competitions such as the Doug Moran and the Archibald Prize. His portrait of YolÅ‹u rapper, dancer, artist and actor Baker Boy and the painting is BIG!

I've always really liked the fact of the existence of the Packing Room Prize - which is for the work that has been judged to be the best by the Art Gallery Staff who receive, unpack and hang the entries.

I've always had a sneaky suspicion that they never ever favour those packed by people who don't know how to make a package secure and/or those who pack like a complete nightmare for unpackers!

Monday, May 27, 2024

How to watch Landscape Artist of the Year 2025 being filmed

The 10th series of Landscape Artist of the Year will be broadcast in early 2025 - but it will be filmed this summer - in June and July. 

This is about how you can watch the filming of the series of episodes involving eight artists all trying to paint the same view at the same time - within four hours.

The Locations for LAOTY 2025

Filming takes place this summer and is broadcast in early 2025.

The general principles are that the production team from Storyvault Films
  • go to one location
  • which offers two sites for two heats
  • which means minimal distance to shift the pods from one location to the next.
  • Each heat winner goes on to paint another stunning location in the semi-final with three being selected to go through to the final
There are typically three locations and six sites in total - plus a semi final location and a location for the Final. They kept very quiet about the really silly location/timing for the Final last year - so don't expect to hear about that.

However, that's NOT what's been announced for this year

I can't work out whether or not 
  • they've reduced the number of programmes 
  • they're doing an A/B Test to see what the impact is of having an invited audience against not having anybody invited at all.....
Frankly, I thought the open invitation for people to attend the filming made some of the locations very difficult for the artists - notably during the semi-final.

Locations for the Heats

Surely they're not doing a cut price cut down version of the programme for the 10th series?

The HEAT Locations are:
Llanberis in Snowdonia with the National Slate Museum in the left foreground

The SEMI-FINAL Location is 
  • Portsmouth Historic Dockyard - this is home to world famous ships, submarines and museums that tell the story of centuries of maritime and Royal Navy history. It also won the prestigious Museum + Heritage Awards 2024, where it clinched not one, but two accolades: Partnership of the Year and Best Use of Digital.
    • 10th July 2024
Portsmouth Historic Dockyard - which includes:
the Mary Rose Museum, HMS Victory (Nelson's ship) and
the National Museum of the Royal Navy

How the Filming Day works

  • Generally speaking the artists selected for the location are there from 7am - having everything explained to them and getting kitted out. They don't want visitors around at that time.
  • The competition will start at approximately 9.30am and finish around 6pm. 
  • You do not need to contact us to reserve a place, but please note that some locations may charge an entry fee.
Plus they announced the location of the commission in advance - see also my blog post 10th Anniversary Prize Commission for Landscape Artist of the YearApparently it's going to involve a trip to the South of France!

At the moment I've got a bet with myself that it might have something to do with Cezanne and the Bibemus Quarry and/or the views of The Montagne Saint-Victoire (c.1887) or maybe 

Thursday, May 23, 2024

More about the King's Paintings

I had a bit of an art binge and a dose of art history yesterday, on the way back to the District Line from the Philip Mould Gallery.

Cimabue's Celebrated Madonna by Lord Frederic Leighton
222 x 521 cm

"Reassorted" at the Mall Galleries 

First, I called in at the Mall Galleries - to see William Feaver's curated selection of portraits from the recent Annual Exhibition of the Royal Society of Portrait Painters. It's called Reassorted and it's quite remarkable what a new curation can do for a hang. 

I'll comment more on this tomorrow. However, I recommend people take a look if you are in town and wanting to see art.

The King's Paintings at the National Gallery

I then thought I'd go and capture some other pics of Royals at the National Gallery - and came across the longest queue I've ever seen trying to enter the Main Entrance to National Gallery via the steps. Puzzling over this I walked to the other entrance and asked the security guard who said "As soon as it pours with rain, everybody heads for the National Gallery!" and let me in.... :) 

I then went in search of King Charles I - which you can now see in this Facebook Post

The thing about the ongoing renovations to the National Gallery and the current closure of the Sainsbury Wing is that the art seems to keep moving around! Very little is where it used to be. Which requires regular visits to keep up with what can be seen and where it can be seen.

One of the things I noticed were some extremely large 'new' paintings - as in they're old - but I'm not used to seeing them at the National Gallery. It turned out that these belong to the King who has made them available to the National Gallery.

So here's what you can now see. (Some of you will be aware of these - and some will not. My practice is to go and pay quick visits to favourites and then periodically have a long slow walk around everywhere!)

Cimabue's Celebrated Madonna

You can see the panoramic painting produced at the top of this post. Apparently Cimabue's Celebrated Madonna by Lord Frederick Leighton 
  • measures more than two metres tall and more than five metres wide
  • was painted by Leighton from 1853 to 1855 in Rome as his first major work.
Extract (extreme left) of Cimabue's Celebrated Madonna
in front of the 'Madonna', and crowned with laurels, walks Cimabue with his pupil Giotto;

It's immensely complex in terms of the number of people and the story telling - and was a favourite of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert.
This was Leighton's first major work, painted in Rome. It was shown at the Academy in 1855. It was an immediate success, and Queen Victoria bought it for 600 guineas on opening day. She recorded in her diary: 'There was a very big picture by a man called Leighton. It is a beautiful painting, quite reminding one of a Paul Veronese, so bright and full of light. Albert was enchanted with it - so much so that he made me buy it.'
It's been on loan from the Royal Collection for many years, however it's previously been hung high in various positions at the top of entrances and staircases - but it's now at a "get up close and personal" distance in Room 45 - one of the main galleries near the front. 

I could have sworn I'd never seen it before!

The Triumphs of Caeser

The Triumphs of Ceaser were painted by Andrea Mantegna and six of them are currently displayed in Room 14

The National Gallery has been displaying six of Andrea Mantegna’s monumental paintings 'The Triumphs of Caesar', loaned from the Royal Collection by His Majesty The King, since last September - but this is the first time I'd come across them.

Jonathan Jones gave the new display at the National Gallery a five star review! See 
Mantegna: The Triumphs of Caesar – you can hear the trumpets and smell the elephant dung

Wednesday, May 22, 2024

The King Charles Portrait by Jonathan Yeo

I said last week that I'd reserve judgement - in terms of a blog post - until I'd seen the actual portrait of King Charles III by Jonathan Yeo.

So, this morning, I visited the Philip Mould Gallery at 18-19 Pall Mall in central London and took a look. In the company of a lot of other people I might add. The door was opening with new visitors almost the whole time I was there - with most people very surprised to find out that viewing the painting is free.

This post is about:

  • background to the portrait
  • how commissioning portraits of members of the Royal Family works 
  • what I think about the portrait
  • references to what other people think about the portrait - including articles which have commented on
    • Yeo as a portrait Artist
    • This portrait in particular
    • the Internet memes

Head and shoulders and butterfly in portrait of King Charles III by Jonathan Yeo

Background to this portrait

The portrait was commissioned in 2020 by The Draper's Company to mark the 50th anniversary of Charles being a member of The Draper's Company.

The Draper's Company was founded in the Middle Ages and its formal title is The Master and Wardens and Brethren and Sisters of the Guild or Fraternity of the Blessed Mary the Virgin of the Mystery of Drapers of the City of London.

It is one of the 111 livery companies. It's also one of the Great Twelve Livery Companies (i.e. the most important ones). Livery companies started out like guilds - a professional association for people doing the same thing to the same standard - in this case being a draper - meaning a retailer or wholesaler of cloth that was mainly for clothing or wool and cloth merchants. 

Today, not all members are drapers and the purpose of the company is largely as a charitable, ceremonial and educational institution. If interested, you can read about its heritage here

The Brief

The brief Jonathan Yeo got from the Draper's Company was specific about the size - to match other portraits they have.  In terms of size, it is very big. 

In terms of how the Prince of Wales (as he was in 2020) should be portrayed, their preference was for him to be portrayed in uniform, probably the Welsh Guards - to reflect the fact he was Prince of Wales. 

Or the way I looked at it, as a Livery Company whose heritage was about cloth, the clothing was important!

Which is interesting given how it turned out.

Half way through the portrait, The Queen died and the Prince of Wales became King Charles III. Obviously there were a lot of calls on his time during the early months of his monarchy. The last sitting was some 14 months after the death of Queen Elizabeth II.

The butterfly suggests the monarch emerging from the "waiting" chrysalis stage. Prince Charles has of course been waiting some 71years (between 1951 and 2022) before he became King. He's spent most of his life as Prince of Wales.

The portrait

The portrait depicts him larger than life and wearing the uniform of the Welsh Guards, of which he was made Colonel in 1975. 

King Charles III portrait by Jonathan Yeo 
- with a man adding scale to demonstrate the size.

Commissioning portraits of the Monarch


The King sat for the painter four times, for around an hour on each occasion, with Yeo also working from drawings and photography in between. By the time it was finally finished at the end of last year, Charles was King.
I know and have spoken to several portrait artists who have painted the Monarch. They all say pretty much the same thing about the process.
  • The client is the organisation who commissioned them i.e. NOT the monarch or other member of the royal family
  • Monarchs are very busy people with lots of work commitments - hence the artist must always fit in with when they have space in their schedule
  • Sittings tend to be very minimal compared to normal portraits. You can ask for more but you're unlikely to get more sittings. The only person they've made an exception for that I'm aware of is Lucian Freud - and even he didn't get what he normally wanted - so he went small instead!
all artists get a limited number of strictly allocated time slots in which to paint the Queen from life. As one artist put it to me once "You're not going to get any more so best not to waste any of the time" (from the description of the process of painting the Queen in my blog post about Portrait of the Queen by Miriam Escofet
  • Sittings have to be scheduled to fit in with their other engagements - and plans for their days are fixed in advance many months in advance, hence last minute changes are difficult
  • Different artists take a different amount of time to complete a portrait - but those who are efficient will tend to be finished in under a year. However the whole process may take several months - and commission to reveal will take even longer.
Jonathan had 4 sittings with the subject between June 2021 and November 2023 at Highgrove and later at Clarence House, working on it in between in his London studio. (Jonathan Yeo website)
Obviously, one of the issues in relation to sittings would have been these could only be held at times when it was possible to do so - with the rules on access and proximity during the Pandemic being crucially important. For this reason alone, it's not surprising that from commission to unveiling it's been about 4 years.

What I think about "King Charles III" by Jonathan Yeo

I don't like it. 

I particularly do NOT like all the suggestions and memes generated by the portrait which suggest variously:
  • the red is symbolic of all the blood spilled on behalf of the monarchy over the years (blame it all on Charles - as if he had anything to do with it!!!)
  • it's a satanic painting as in you can see a devil's head if you make it reflect on itself
  • etc etc etc.
WHY would any organisation commission a portrait which 
  • becomes a global meme - and not in a nice way?
  • leads to views that it is supposed to represent all the blood that has flowed in the past and is, in the view of the commentators, associated with the Royal Family?
I can only imagine the Draper's Company had no sketch of the final painting to approve.
BIG mistake

Sunday, May 19, 2024

Making A Mark on Art: Musings on a move to Substack

While on my "Mega Spring Clean" Break, I've been mulling over whether to move forward with Substack.

Mainly in the context of the fact 

  • I've been writing Making A Mark on Blogger for over 18 years. I happen to like the platform and while I hope it continues, I do get concerned about the subscription side of things - which has effectively died for me
  • I've watched both James Gurney and Michael Chesley Johnson set up on Substack (and I'm happy to hear of any more of you who have made the move!) - I think for pretty much the same reasons as me.
  • I'm 70 later this year and I'd like to 
    • find a way to still write 
    • AND also be retired 
    • AND be able to find the time to do things I enjoy doing. 
    • you'll have noticed I now write fewer posts than I used to (and post more topical links on my Making A Mark Facebook Page
  • Plus I absolutely MUST put time and effort into staying healthy in the context of 
    • joints which are progressively succumbing to severe osteoarthritis 
    • which means a BIG chunk of every day is now dedicated to my daily walk - to avoid grinding to a complete halt as a completely stiff person 
    • AND I'm about to remind the hospital they promised me a shoulder replacement.
So overall, something along the lines of "less is more"!

This morning, I decided I'd better get on with making a claim to my brand name. 

Which is when I found some geek got there first! However I've been using Making A Mark on Art for a while so I've gone with that.

So the URL for my substack is

I'm thinking maybe using my Substack for "perennial" topics

  • long form discussion posts
  • possibly trying out some posts about a subject I have in mind to write a book about and where I'd like to have a conversation with people about it as I go
  • ways of enabling access to the masses of very detailed stuff I've written in the last 18 years which needs "a front door"
  • developing a community - which seems to have happened already on Facebook - although I've never made it into a group
  • plus maybe periodic highlights of other substacks I've found interesting (remember when we used to have blog rolls - which is the main way I used to find people whose art and/or writing I liked?)
Which would mean 
  • I am NOT CLOSING DOWN this blog
  • Making A Mark will continue with more topical posts - things of the "here and now"
  • e.g. regular art competition / art exhibition posts will stay on this blog 
Plus I will also cross reference between the two sites.

Let me know what you think via my Facebook Page and/or by following my new substack publication.

Here are the relevant URLs:

Thursday, May 16, 2024

Royal Society of Portrait Artists Annual Exhibition 2024

I should have written about the Annual Exhibition 2024 of the Royal Society of Portrait Painters (RP) last week - but my "mega spring clean" rather got in the way.  

Suffice to say this is one of the very best RP Annual Exhibitions I've ever seen - and I'm very sure that those who have seen it have been broadcasting that fact far and wide.

In fact, it's so good that I'd be very surprised if the The Portrait Award Exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery (sponsored by Herbert Smith Freehills) is any better.

How to see the exhibition

You can see the exhibition at the Mall Galleries. The last day is 18th May and the exhibition is open between 10am and 5pm.

View of the East Gallery from the Reception area
- the semi circle is the commission area

You can also see images of the portrait drawings and paintings hung in the exhibition on the Mall Galleries website

I've also now posted my albums of photos of the work in the show on my Making A Mark Facebook Page - and you can view them there. These are:

  • North Gallery - which mainly comprises most of the artwork by those who are not members of the RP and who entered via the open entry. 
  • East Gallery - which includes some impressive work by non-members of repute as well as portraits by RP members.
  • West Gallery - these are mainly be members.
You can also see all the artworks which won awards or were shortlisted or received runner up awards on this link.

RECOMMENDATION: I recommend that all those aspiring to be selected for a future RP Annual Exhibition should pay particular attention to the following when viewing the artwork
  • this is a very competitive open exhibition. This year the RP received 3,500 entries (which is more than BP Portrait used to get!)
  • the kind of portraits selected for the exhibition - particularly those by non-members. Also note my comments below about how portraiture has changed over time and with this exhibition in particular
  • the quality of the artwork - which is very high
  • the media used i.e. there are drawings in a variety of media as well as paintings.
North Gallery

North Gallery

I saw the exhibition on Private View day - which is actually not the best day to see the artwork. That's because of the very high number of visitors which an exhibition like this generates. 
  • You've got artists and their friends and families, plus sitters, plus people who get invited to these things - like me. 
  • It is however the very best day for talking to people and seeing people you've not seen in a very long time.
Or in the case of Joshua Donkor, who I've not seen since 25th April when I met him at the RBA Rising Stars exhibition as one of the young artists shortlisted for the Rome Scholarship! 

I really liked his painting of his grandmother with one of her grandchildren - there are so few artists who can portray black skin in all the wonderful colours it can be - but Joshua can! I also liked how he built in echoes of the past in terms of photos which are suggested in the background. It's much more complex and layered than is suggested by only a quick glance.

He also received a Highly Commended Award for The de Laszlo Foundation Award for the most outstanding portrait by an artist aged 35 years or under

Worlds Apart by Joshua Donkor
(in the North Gallery - middle room)

I've been hanging on all day to find out who won what re the two biggest prizes for portraiture - but cannot find anything yet....

I'll add it in here later......

Review of the Exhibition

Overall, this is an exhibition which displays one genre - portraiture - of a very high standard - with a wide diversity of subjects, styles, sizes and media. 

It's very much changed and developed since I first started reviewing the annual exhibition 15 years go. (see the end for links to previous reviews).
The RP contains a broad collection of stylistic and intellectual approaches that continue to make a significant contribution to the ongoing tradition of portraiture in Britain today. The Society looks to uphold the values and practices of its long and distinguished history, but at the same time, it seeks to explore and develop new artistic models and perspectives. (Catalogue)
Given this exhibition is about portraiture, the artwork leans heavily towards realism although a lot does not try to look photographic.

I was very impressed. Some of the artworks were not to my personal taste - but the standards of execution were uniformly high and some portraits were - whether by RP member or open entrant - of the very highest standard 

The exhibition includes 241 portraits. Of these:
  • members of the RP are showing around about 100 portraits - and I noted not all members are showing an artwork.
  • There are 125 artworks selected from the open submission and 
  • the remaining artworks are by artists who have been invited by a member to exhibit. 
One of my tests of how good an exhibition is revolves around how well I can remember it after I've seen it. I have an excellent visual memory for things I like and with good exhibitions I can take a tour around and see it again in my head - as attested by those who have commented on my ability to remember particular artworks and where they were hung in an exhibition in the past!

Rather than review it the same day - or even the next - I often now review it a little later to see which artworks are still shouting for attention in my head.

This review will highlight some of these below

Commissions: the end of the "stuffed shirt"

This is an exhibition which aims to celebrate the best in contemporary portraiture. 

Interestingly it's also an exhibition where I think very high quality entries from the open submission have influenced members over time.

As I commented last year, the main aspect of the exhibition which immediately struck me is how much it did NOT look like exhibitions in earlier years which have, on occasions, had rather too many stuffed shirts relating to formal commissions from organisations. 

While understanding that:

  • commissions are a portrait artist's "bread and butter" income
  • this exhibition is very much a marketing exercise for members of the RP
  • most commissions tend to come from significant organisations who like to record the people who've headed them up
however it's interesting how the personality and the profile of the person being portrayed is now much more evident in portraits. In general, they are now much less formulaic as in "this is what we normally do..."

Of course, the more you show variation in how you can paint for a commission, the more you get more interesting commissions as people endeavour to inject their personality into the painting. 

One of the people who has led the charge to become more flexible in how people are portrayed is Alastair Adams who is a Past President of the RP.

Tuesday, May 14, 2024

I'm on a bit of a break....

I've not been posting because:

  1. I needed a proper break - not having had a break from blogging in a long time - and there's never ever a good time!
  2. I'm currently engaged in a MEGA Spring Clean - as in really MEGA!
My better half and I have been reorganising my study. As in he does the heavy lifting and I do the organising, chucking and shredding......

Stage 1: The Move

I wanted my study to be more accessible and ergonomic - and basically wanted to get rid of my filing stacks!!

So we’ve moved my filing cabinet out of the corner and put it next to the door so it is now much more accessible - which means I can actually now file as I go as opposed to having HUGE “for filing” stacks.

However to do this, we also had to disassemble my desk into its three parts and then move it left to make room for the filing cabinet.

Plus we had to empty the filing cabinet first. That filled three of those indestructible bags!!

Plus all the technology and "the stuff which sits on the top of the desk" had to move too. 

The printer is now sat on top of the filing cabinet which also makes that much more accessible.

My previous steel computer table bought c.30 years ago - which used to house the printer plus paper plus stationery supplies - also had to move out of the way altogether - and is now enjoying a second life and doing sterling work in the kitchen with the veggie basket tower and the pan tower on top and all the plants pots and ‘indoor gardening ‘ stuff underneath! This has tidied up and made a big difference to the “messy corner” of the kitchen.

The high chair from the kitchen which used to have the veggie tower on top of it has now moved to the inaccessible corner where the filing cabinet used to be!

The last bit of this first stage was reconnecting the iMac and the printer - this time to a extension under my desk. Always interesting for somebody with osteoarthritis and wonky joints who cannot get up from the floor and who generally has to crawl to the sofa to become vertical again.