The BP Portrait prize has built itself a reputation for honouring some of the very best contemporary portrait artists around. Every year, we are shown works employing a wide variety of styles, mediums and materials. The exhibition is almost like an assorted chocolate box.
The names of this year’s finalists have now been released. These are individuals who have been, according to The National Portrait Gallery’s (NPG) website, “selected from 2,580 entries by artists from 87 countries”.
Shortlisted portraitists Thomas Ehretsmann, Benjamin Sullivan and Antony Williams have each chosen female subject matters, yet the effects and styles of works are completely different.
Ehretsmann’s work, ‘Double Portrait’ includes an image of his wife, Caroline, as they are out walking through the park on an evening stroll. The side-on view lends the work an intimate aspect, as though the sitter has not seen the artist. On their website, the NPG confirms “The title, Double Portrait, suggest the passage from one state of being to another as Caroline was eight months pregnant at the time.”
Sullivan and Williams also capture images of women and in positions which do not directly engage with the artist or viewer. ‘Emma’, the contribution by artist Antony Williams, shows a three quarter view of a nude woman covering her breasts. She gazes out beyond the canvas giving the impression of pensive reflection. Benjamin Sullivan’s ‘Breech!’ shows the painter’s wife and child in a naturalistic, living room setting. Sullivan chooses an unusual, elevated angel which gives this work an extra, intriguing dimension.
Last year the crown went to a portrait artist who was by no means unfamiliar with the competition. Clara Drummond took first prize for her enigmatic portrayal of fellow artist and friend, Kirsty Buchanan. Drummond entered the competition in 2013 and then again in 2014, however it was to be another few years before she was able to claim this prestigious title in 2016.
The exhibition itself will run from 22nd June 2017 to 24th September 2017.
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