The Royal Society of Portrait Painters Annual Exhibition is a fantastic opportunity to exhibit and discover the latest work by the UK’s leading portrait painters. Many of the society’s commissions begin with enquiries made during the exhibition, so it’s a great indicator of current trends in portraiture, and the talented artists who are setting those trends.

During the RP Annual Exhibition 2018, our commissions consultants were on-hand to assist visitors with their commission enquiries. Visitors usually ask for an artist by name, so by logging the number of enquiries for each artist, we worked out the most highly sought-after artists of the year.


1. Alastair Adams PPRP claims first place, receiving the most enquiries

Former President of the Royal Society of Portrait Painters, Alastair exhibited three portraits of eminent women at this year’s exhibition. In addition to his commissions practice, Alastair has a research-based lecturing position at Loughborough University, and has published papers on commissioned portraiture, the application of life-drawing within a modern educational context, drawing and visualisation, and facial difference.

Alastair Adams ‘Julia Black’ for the London School of Economics

Alastair Adams 'Rita Gardner' for the Royal Geographical Society

Alastair Adams 'Sarah Furness' Lord Lieutenant of Rutland


2. Paul Brason is often placed in our ‘top portrait painters’ features

This year, he exhibited a portrait of a lady High Sheriff, a portrait which won the Burke’s Peerage Foundation Award. Paul’s portrait of Eric Widing was commissioned for the Union Club in New York, where it now hangs. Paul’s commissions have included HRH Prince Philip, Earl Spencer, Sir Roy Strong and may notable figures from the Arts and Academia.

Paul Brason 'Paul Killik' Private Commission

2018 Winner of the Burke's Peerage Foundation Award Paul Brason 'Sarah Taylor, High Sherrif of Oxford'


3. David Cobley RP NEAC was also a popular choice at the exhibition

David exhibited a special memorial portrait of Ken Dodd, which he’d painted alongside the portrait of Ken commissioned by the National Portrait Gallery. In this version, the artist explores the tensions between Ken’s public and private persona.

More recently, David’s portrait of the first female president of the Supreme Court, Baroness Hale, gained national coverage for being the first smiling portrait to hang in the hall of the illustrious Gray’s Inn.

David Cobley ‘Swifts Forever’ private commission

David Cobley ‘His Honour Judge Peter Beaumont QC CBE’ painted for The Old Bailey


4. Another favourite was Susan Ryder RP NEAC

Susan Ryder has a special gift for the family portrait; she particularly likes to paint groups, and enjoys including dogs. You’ll notice the lovely loosely-painted interiors in her exhibited work. Indeed, Susan is as well-known for her paintings of interiors as she is for her portraits, and her shows often sell out.

Susan Ryder ‘Hector with Brodie’ private commision

Susan Ryder ‘Olivia, Ben and Annabel’ family portrait commission

Susan Ryder ‘The de Laszlo family’ group portrait, private commission


5. Mark Roscoe RP

Mark Roscoe won the Changing Faces Award in 2012, the Ondaatje Prize for Portraiture in 2013, and in 2014 Mark was elected to be a member of the Royal Society of Portrait Painters. Since becoming a member, he has become one of our most highly sought-after artists.

Mark Roscoe ‘Eniola Sokalu’ invited sitter

Mark Roscoe ‘Lord and Lady Provost’ for The City of Edinburgh part-funded by public donations

Mark Roscoe ‘Sir Martin Taylor FRS’ commissioned by Merton College

Discover more of the portraits on display at this year's Annual Exhibition