Introducing the award winners from this year's Royal Society of Portrait Painters Annual Exhibition.

There is a phenomenal level of skill and artistry to behold at this year's Royal Society of Portrait Painters Annual Exhibition, which boasts some 200 works of contemporary portraiture from an international roster of artists. Seven talented painters were awarded prizes today (8 May), announced at the Private View by the Society's President Richard Foster who applauded the winners' commitment and flair. Find out more about the commended artists below.

Joe with Tattoos by David Caldwell RP

David Caldwell RP, Winner of The Smallwood Architects Prize

Direct engagement with his sitters is a key component to Caldwell's work. “A portrait is not only about achieving a likeness but also about capturing the sitter’s individual energetic presence,” says the artist.

Through his paintings, he aims to translate his “experience of looking.” Caldwell explains, “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 Engineer by Joshua Waterhouse

Joshua Waterhouse, Winner of The de Laszlo Foundation Award

Born in Newcastle in 1989, Waterhouse is a hyperrealist artist living and working in London. Despite the contemporary feel of his work, the artist draws much of his inspiration from artists of the Northern Renaissance. He paints with oil on wood panel in a highly meticulous fashion to create portraits with a heightened sense of realism.

Though the face remains the focus of his work, Waterhouse gives equal consideration to the environment of his sitter. The artist often amplifies the narrative of a subject’s life through still life elements in the composition, as seen here in this award-winning portrait 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. 


Rose at Houghton by Phoebe Dickinson 

Phoebe Dickinson, Winner of Burke's Peerage Foundation Award for Classically Inspired Portraiture

Born in 1984, Chelsea-based painter Phoebe Dickinson trained at London Fine Art Studios and was among the 48 selected to exhibit at the National Portrait Gallery for last year’s BP Portrait Award.

Dickinson’s lush painting depicts Rose Hanbury, the Marchioness of Cholmondeley wearing her antique Turkish kaftan in the opulent surroundings of Houghton Hall’s tapestry room. “I wanted to create a large predominantly dark portrait that showed off the scale and grandeur of the room but also the luminosity of her English rose skin,” Dickinson explains.


Preoccupied with Something by Yun Meng

Yun Meng, Winner of the Contemporary Arts Trust Award

Chinese artist Yun Meng is fascinated by the relationship between the skin, colour and the space of the sitter in a specific environment at that time – as demonstrated here in this multi-textured work. Through painting, the artist expresses the complex emotions and spiritual world of the characters.

Judith Kellerman, Trustee of the Contemporary Arts Trust said, "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. The award, in memory of my daughter Alice Batkin, is given to convey how art appreciation and painting (and other mediums) can encourage expression and creativity in everyone.” 


Tom by James Hague RP

James Hague RP, Winner of The RP Award (on the theme of 'Skin')

Born in Nottingham in 1970, Hague studied Fine Art at The University of Northumbria at Newcastle and now lives between East London and Copenhagen. Hague paints his subjects in a luminescent, bug-eyed style that is reminiscent of some of Lucian Freud’s early work. The artist generally works from life, producing a series of drawings or photographs over 3 to 6 sittings which he later works on from his studio.


Executive Chef by Peter Kuhfeld RP NEAC

Peter Kuhfeld RP NEAC, Winner of The Ondaatje Prize for Portraiture

Born in Cheltenham in 1952, Kuhfeld is the only child of a German prisoner of war and an English classical pianist. The painter studied art at Leicester Polytechnic followed by a brief period teaching at Rugby School of Art, before studying at the Royal Academy Schools under Peter Greenham RA.

In 2012, Kuhfeld was commissioned by HRH The Prince of Wales to paint the royal wedding of Prince William, Duke of Cambridge and Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge. Prince Charles has been a patron of his and Kuhfeld painted portraits of Prince William and Prince Harry in 1986.

Esther by Robbie Wraith RP

Robbie Wraith RP, Winner of The Prince of Wales's Award for Portrait Drawing

Wraith left school at 16 to study painting in Florence at the invitation of Pietro Annigoni, an Italian portrait and fresco painter, best known for his portraits of Queen Elizabeth II. Over the course of his career, he has had over thirty exhibitions across Britain, Europe, America and China. Wraith has painted a long list of distinguished portrait sitters, including everyone from HM The Queen to Nelson Mandela. He has work in the private collection of HM The Queen, HRH The Prince of Wales, the Royal Collection Windsor, The Vatican, Oxford and Cambridge Universities and many more. 

The Royal Society of Portrait Painters Annual Exhibition is on view at Mall Galleries, 9-24 May.