Stories behind the Prize Winning Paintings of the Royal Society of Portrait Painters Annual Exhibition 2022 - Part Two

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We hope you enjoy reading about the artists’ inspirations and experiences behind their prize-winning paintings and are able to enrich your knowledge about their creative processes. This is part two of the stories behind the prize-winning works. The exhibition is on until Saturday 14th May, and we hope you are able to visit in person!

Read Part One Here

 

The Burke’s Peerage Foundation Award for Classically Inspired Portraiture: Frances Bell ‘Gillian’

Frances described the relationship between her and Gillian, and how she goes about capturing a sense of likeness in a portrait; ‘Gillian is a previous client of mine. I’ve painted her sons before, and this was a birthday present from her husband to her. I have also painted Gillian before for her mother, riding my horse sidesaddle! So we had a previous connection of working well on portraits.’

‘I’m a great believer in having sittings from life. I had Gillian for 2 long sittings. We chatted away all the time - I wanted her to look natural and engaged so conversation is vital to getting an expression that represents her character and vivacity.’

In ‘Gillian’ I was struck by Frances’ use of light and ability to create varied textured surfaces within her brushwork and asked if she was able to comment on this further. Frances said: ‘I love fabric textures, almost as much as colours. This is a tonally narrow band of values - it’s all pale. I did, however, have silk which is strewn with highlights and soft wool which is entirely without highlights, it’s matte. So it was an enjoyable exercise chasing the opportunities to find excitement within the fabric.’

 

The Ondaatje Prize for Portraiture: Lantian D ‘Man and a Window’

Lantian described what draws her to portraiture, and spoke about the creative process behind ‘Man And A Window’: ‘I’m drawn to portraiture because of a natural tendency to reflect on our own being and to understand ourselves. To quote Lucian Freud, ‘Painters who deny themselves the representation of life and limit their language to purely abstract forms are depriving themselves of the possibility of provoking more than aesthetic emotion.’ But for ‘portraiture’ to exist in the 21st century, mimesis alone is not enough. My aim is poiesis.’

“Man and a Window” belongs to my series ‘Hortus Conclusus’ (Latin: Enclosed Garden), which is my journey as a modern individual in search of a soul. To paint is to understand the world through understanding oneself. My work is autobiographical and I extract and recompose models, my life and the world I’m in, transforming them into a deep well of meaning that if put into words, becomes misrepresented.

‘The Man’ in the piece was my lover at the time, and I was his ‘Window’. I was inspired by COVID lockdowns, millions isolated and confined. The pandemic has magnified causes of our ‘existential crisis’, and the way people are afflicted by debilitating feelings of insignificance, inadequacy and hopelessness. This social narrative, paralleled with the hopeless situation of my love affair and my own disturbed and confined upbringing, led to ‘Man and a Window’. 

I also asked Lantian about her considered use of empty space and composition. She said she focuses on duality and borders, two essential conditions of being. In ‘Man and a Window’ she expressed opposite elements - individual versus mass, interior versus exterior, silence versus words, warm versus cold, passion versus calculation, liberty versus security and man versus window. To bring out these dualities, she exaggerated certain elements such as the windows’ reflection in the floor and eliminated other elements such as the man’s mouth to bring out impotence, vulnerability and silence, in turn emphasising ‘looking’ and the ‘window’. 

Lantian was delighted to win the Ondaatje prize for the second time. Her series ‘Hortus Conclusus’ has 33 paintings, and she hopes to continue to develop the series and organise solo exhibitions of the project.

 

The RP Award: Nneka Uzoigwe ‘Narcissus’

Nneka’s self portrait depicts the story of Narcissus. Nneka explains that in the myth, Narcissus sees his reflection in a pool of water and, unable to tear himself away, he slowly dies. A daffodil ‘narcissus’ springs up in his place. In Nneka’s painting, Narcissus is a Dryad-like creature, half daffodil, half man. Nneka explains she has painted herself, symbolised as a pool of water by the swirling waves of her Hokusai robe, as she lowers thread from a golden pool to Narcissus’ reflection. His reflection entices him with the thread to pull him into the pool, with a humorous nod to the idea of an artist spending weeks starting into their own reflection when creating a self portrait.

When asked about her feelings on self portraits Nneka said ‘I love using myself as a model, as when I’m painting myself it feels like I have all the time in the world. It gives me a quiet space to day dream and further develop ideas onto the canvas as they happen. I spend a lot of time not painting and staring at the canvas. With self portraits, I paint them at home, as I tend to work on them every day for weeks, from dawn to dusk.’ She then added that Dorothea Tanning, Antonio Mancini and George Watts are the artists she is most inspired by.

As for her advice to other portrait Nneka says: ‘Don’t talk yourself out of flights of imagination, as naïve as they might seem, as they are in fact the seeds of individuality. Trust your technical ability to not just copy what’s in front of you, but create new ways of seeing.’

 

The Prince of Wales’s Award for Portrait Drawing: Thomas Arthurton ‘Portrait Study’

Thomas’ drawing has a great sense of reflection. I asked Thomas about the story behind the work: ‘Galina was an elderly woman I came to know in St Petersburg. As I drew she talked of life growing up in the former Soviet Union. She had experienced harsh conditions and this was reflected in her skin which showed an interesting radiance. I captured this by using my fingers to smudge the graphite and hatching, whilst taking the opportunity to create a loose, painterly and relaxed drawing. Galina maintained a strong faith in humanity which I found inspiring. Hers was one of the last drawings I undertook before I had to leave Russia.’ 

I also asked Thomas if he has any advice for emerging artists or recent graduates to which he said:  ‘Draw, draw, draw and be free! I enjoy making quick drawings on the underground. You never know how long you have to capture the passenger’s most distinctive features before they are up and gone!’

 

We hope reading about the artists' stories behind their works has inspired you! If you haven't already done so, make sure to check out part one to learn about the other prize-winning works within the exhibition!

Part One

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Frances Bell 'Gillian'

Stories behind the Prize Winning Paintings of the Royal Society of Portrait Painters Annual Exhibition 2022 - Part One

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We hope you enjoy reading about the artists’ inspirations and experiences behind their prize-winning paintings and are able to enrich your knowledge about their creative processes. The exhibition is on until Saturday 14th May, we hope you are able to visit and see these wonderful works in person!

After reading this entry, be sure to visit part two to learn more stories behind the prize-winning works: 

Part Two

The William Lock Portrait Prize: Tania Rivilis ‘Kupka’s Dog’

Tania said she was speechless to win the William Lock Portrait Prize and that it is a huge step for her in her art journey. I asked Tania to comment on her use of colour, as the yellow in ‘Kupka’s Dog’ is so vivid whilst being wonderfully balanced with the dark purples. Tania explains:  

‘I reinterpreted Frantisek Kupka’s self portrait which is painted with absolutely magical vibrant yellow tones. In my expressive style I use gradients, connections, voids, and tense colour fields. In this painted I also wanted to depict Kupka’s love for Orphism (a branch of cubism which abstracts bright colours), the musicality of rhythms through the interpenetration of primary colours and the intersection of surfaces. That’s why the yellow colour field vanishes into the man’s garments, becoming part of his attitude.’

‘The dark fields of purple and black show the rhythm too. Although the portrait looks static, the rhythm of colours shows the storm of emotions inside the subject.’

Tania then spoke about the special bond we form with our pets, and how she goes about capturing the relationships between others in her work; 

‘I’m amazed by the visual similarities between humans and their pets. Pets become our alter egos and we have indescribable bonds. Many of my favourite artists convey these bonds in their artworks, such as Valentin Serov’s ‘Count Felix Sumarokov-Elston’. Or Lucian Freud and his great love of dogs, and Kupka often elevated animals to the dignity of a person.

I make portraits in which there is always a reference to the other, because only in another’s gaze can the subject be assembled into a coherent image. Otherwise, a portrait would be an empty shell. I try to capture moments in which a person in relation to another person or creature discovers again and again the possibility of becoming whole.’

Tania commented on how friendly, professional and supportive the RP team have been and explained that she is absolutely delighted to be a part of the exhibition. 

 

The RP Prize for the Best Small Portrait: Simon Davis ‘Taslima’

Paintings in consideration for the Best Small Portrait Prize cannot be larger than 38 x 30.5 cm (15 x 12 inches). I asked Simon about his choice of working on a small scale;

‘I often do smaller studies before starting larger works and this was one of those of my neighbour Taslima. However, sometimes these smaller works have a simplicity and directness that is lost in bigger paintings. In a large show like the RP annual exhibition, small works can be overlooked and are wrongly thought to lack the power and strength of larger work.’

Simon then discussed his process and tips for capturing someone’s likeness saying he incorporates photography within his process, treating photographs as information to be interpreted rather than copied. He says: ‘my advice to portrait painters is to paint as much as you can as this is the only way to learn what does and doesn’t work for you.’

I also asked Simon which artists inspire him: ‘When I first started painting, the Newlyn School of Artists was very influential as a lot of them used the Square-Brush technique which I became fascinated with. I have a show ‘I Am Because You Are’ starting at Panter and Hall in London on the 11th May. This is an exhibition of 30 portraits of artists that have influenced me, ranging from illustrators, painters and comic artists as I have taken inspiration from all of them over my career.’

 

The De Laszlo Foundation Award: Laura Hope Lloyd ‘Micheal’

Laura shared the story behind ‘Micheal’: ‘Micheal is a portrait artist who lives near me. I met him last year and he asked if I would sit for him. I agreed only if he would sit for me, which he was very hesitant about as he hates pictures of himself. Funnily enough, his slightly awkward nature was something I really enjoyed capturing. I’m really interested in portraying emotion and my sitters’ ‘inner world’. The reference photo for this piece was taken in his living room the day I sat for him, a perfect backdrop as I’m hugely inspired by ‘vintage’ aesthetics.’

I was struck by Laura’s effective use of a limited colour palette combined with her expressive mark-making techniques and asked her to comment on these stylistic choices: 

‘I’ve only recently started embracing colour. I used to be really afraid of it, so I tried using colour but in a very limited way. I replaced my black pencil with a red pencil and then used a blue/grey for darker tones and a yellowy flesh colour for lighter tones. Finally, I added other colours that complimented the piece. Although I studied Illustration, I learnt the most during the years I worked as a Memorial Artist - hand etching and painting designs and portraits onto gravestones. A lot of this work was in black and white, and I was taught in a very step-by-step way. Even though I work in colour now, I still use the same techniques I learnt there.’ 

‘My mark-making is very instinctual and I get my frustrations out about a piece through my marks. I also believe drawing can be just as exciting as painting so I like to show how alive drawing can be. I’ve been drawing ever since I can remember and there is an emotional quality that I haven’t quite found with paint yet. You can really dig into a piece quite aggressively with pencils and crayons, in a way that you can’t do with a brush.’

 

The Smallwood Architects Prize for Contextual Portraiture: Catherine Creaney ‘Care’

Catherine Creaney’s painting ‘Care’ is part of a larger series of paintings about carers. I asked Catherine to share the story behind the care worker in her painting and her inspiration behind the series more broadly: 

‘This is Jordan Dennis, 30, a full-time care worker at a nursing home. In April 2021, he contracted Covid-19 whilst working with Covid patients, many of whom died. Jordan was extremely ill but passionate about his job, he wanted to get back as quickly as he could to be there for those at the nursing home.  The portrait captured a moment when Jordan was struggling with the trauma of living through the pandemic, the toll of witnessing the deaths and illnesses of residents and the toll on his own health. This painting was my way of honouring all the care workers who tirelessly battled through the pandemic and is an acknowledgment of the mental and physical impacts it had.’ 

Catherines explained she started this series of paintings about carers before the pandemic. Their personal sacrifices and important role is something she’s wanted to honour in her work for many years after witnessing her mother’s partner give up his role as a teacher and devote himself to her care when she was ill with MS for over 20 years. She marvelled at his willingness to take on the role and the sacrifices he made.  Catherine has made this collection to honour carers’ work and to share their stories, drawing attention to their valuable and overlooked contributions to society. 

I also asked Catherine about her favourite materials; ‘My favourite mediums are soft pastel and oil paints. Each has unique qualities that I enjoy using to create my portraits. I enjoy the myriad of techniques and approaches that oil offers, its versatility and unmatched ability to create realism. I find soft pastel is a more effortless medium which I use to create quick results and love the buttery texture. I couldn’t choose between the two and enjoy each equally!’

Catherine said it is a great honour and validation of her own work to get to exhibit alongside many of her favourite portrait painters who are members of the RP, and she is incredibly excited to have her work on display at Mall Galleries.

 

Make sure you also read part two to discover the stories behind the other prize-winning works within the Royal Society of Portrait Painters Annual Exhibition 2022!

Part Two

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RP 2022 | Prize - Winners

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Congratulations to the Prize-winners of the Royal Society of Portrait Painters' Annual Exhibition 2022!

 

 

The William Lock Portrait Prize

Tania Rivilis, Kupka's Dog

£20,000 for the most timeless portrait with a real feeling for paint and its aesthetic potential.

 

The Ondaatje Prize for Portraiture

Lantian, Man and a Window

£10,000 plus the Society’s Gold Medal awarded for the most distinguished portrait in the Society’s annual exhibition.

 

The RP Award

Nneka Uzoigwe, Narcissus (Self Portrait)

£2,000 will be awarded to the artist whose work best represents the year's chosen theme - which for 2022 is 'Self-Portrait’.

 

The RP Prize for the Best Small Portrait

Simon Davis RP, Taslima

A prize of £2,000 for the best small portrait in the exhibition, measuring not more than 38 x 30.5 cm (15 x 12 inches) unframed.

 

The de Laszlo Foundation Award

Laura Hope, Micheal

£3,000 plus a Silver Medal for the most outstanding portrait by an artist aged 35 years or under.

 

The Prince of Wales's Award for Portrait Drawing

Thomas Arthurton, Portrait Study

£2,000 and framed certificate for a portrait in any recognised drawing medium.

 

The Smallwood Architects Prize for Contextual Portraiture

Catherine Creaney, Care

£1,000 for a portrait in which architectural or interior features play an important part.



The Burke’s Peerage Foundation Award for Classically Inspired Portraiture

Frances Bell RP AROI, Gillian

The Burke’s Peerage Foundation Award, established by its founders William Bortrick and Mark Ayre in 2015, is presented for Classically Inspired Portraiture in the RP Annual Exhibition. It is presented each year with a certificate and a prize of £2,000

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Rivilis Tania, Kupka's Dog

THE QUEEN’S PLATINUM JUBILEE 2022

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The Royal Society of Portrait Painters annual exhibition in honour of The Queen’s Platinum Jubilee.

Exhibition Dates: Thursday 5 May – Saturday 14 May 

Explore Exhibition

Our Patron HM The Queen has reigned for over half of the time the Royal Society of Portrait Painters has existed. As one of the most painted figures in history, her epoch has been intertwined with portraiture, and as such, intimately connected with members of the Royal Society.

To mark The Queen’s Platinum Jubilee the Royal Society of Portrait Painters is honoured to show a curated selection of portraits of our monarch by past and present member artists, alongside our Annual Exhibition.

 

 

Throughout her seven decades of service the Queen has sat innumerable times, each painting a unique vista into a remarkable life and person. The selected paintings exhibited at the Jubilee Exhibition 2022 represent her reign to the present day, demonstrating a wide array of artistic styles, sizes, mediums and methods.

Each artist who receives such an illustrious commission confronts diverse challenges in painting the monarch. Primarily, they are presented with a figure of state, embodied in tradition – an emblematic position that transcends the everyday to take a place in history. Conversely, and most salient to a portraitist, each painting looks for the intimate expression of a human being.

A wide range of national institutions have provided steady patronage to our society’s members, allowing them to embark on career defining commissions. A commission of the queen offers a thrilling chance to contribute to the long chain of Royal paintings that thread through our culture and history.

We are very grateful to those institutions whose commitment to painted portraits have provided such an opportunity to artists and to these institutions in particular for lending their paintings of HM Queen for this exhibition.

With special thanks to:

  • National Portrait Gallery, London
  • Royal Automobile Club, London
  • Royal Hospital Chelsea, London
  • Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office, London
  • The Rifles

The Royal Society of Portrait Painters annual exhibition in honour of The Queen’s Platinum Jubilee 2022.

Discover the other work

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Words of Encouragement from Previous Winners of The Royal Society of Portrait Painters Annual Exhibition

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The Royal Society of Portrait Painters Call for Entries is now open!

We are seeking work from portrait artists, to exhibit alongside members of the society at their Annual Exhibition 2022, and we welcome work created in any media, including digital drawings, apart from photography and sculpture. Click here for all details and to enter your work.

We spoke to some of last years’ prize winners to gain some insight into the process of submitting and to gather some words of encouragement, especially for emerging artists who may not have exhibited through an open call before. You can additionally take a look at last years’ featured works to see the sort of work we select.

 

Frances Bell RP ‘Self Portrait’  - The William Lock Portrait Prize Winner

 

Frances Bell won The William Lock Portrait Prize for her painting ‘Self Portrait’. Frances describes self-portraits as a fascinating territory as the influences that typically make up a portrait such as the conversations and the sitters’ ideas and expressions are omitted, so it is a far more introspective process. 

Frances was over the moon to receive The William Lock Portrait Prize, when she received the email explaining that she’d won she said ‘I stared vacantly at the screen for a few minutes then asked my husband to read it too. Only when he looked sufficiently dumbfounded did I believe it!’

She really encourages artists to submit saying; ‘I have a general philosophy of entering everything. This does mean that one often hears “no”, of course, but sometimes you get a “yes” and it is such a thrill to be accepted into a major international show. The competition for places will of course be stiff - you should expect that, so it’s not a failure to miss out on exhibiting, just a fantastic success to be selected.’

‘The Royal Society of Portrait Painters is an eminent, historical gem of artistic culture. We are so lucky to have such a society with its history to engage with like we do. The open exhibition is a fantastic platform, and if you are included it will boost your profile enormously, so you might as well go for it!’

 

Will Calver ‘Self Portrait in Hat’ - The RP Prize for the Best Small Portrait Winner

Will Calver won The RP Prize for Best Small Portrait for his painting ‘Self Portrait in Hat’ which is a small oil painting on linen, painted during the winter lockdown of last year. Will worked from life using an old mirror in his studio and the piece reflects a sense of stillness and quietude. 

Will says; ‘Entering competitions can seem daunting and it is very easy to choose not to submit your work.’ but he says the process with the Royal Society of Poritrait Painters was straightforward and added that if you are accepted, it will be hugely affirming and motivating. Will said ‘the whole process from start to finish was very enjoyable and it was wonderful to have a painting hanging alongside so many esteemed artists’ work’, and to then win The Best Small Portrait Prize was a huge honour for Will.

 

Sandra Kuck ‘Portrait through a Prism’ - Smallwood Architects Prize Winner

The Smallwood Architects Prize is awarded for a portrait in which interior or architectural features play an important part. Last year, this was won by Sandra Kuck for her painting ‘Portrait Through a Prism’ where a beautiful Chinese bench that the sitter lies on, is an eye-catching aspect. 

Sandra explains; ‘The Royal Society of Portrait Painters is one of the most important and prestigious groups of painters in the world, so being part of their annual exhibition at Mall Galleries should be a goal for all portrait artists!’

She shared how being accepted into the exhibition was so exciting and gratifying, so it was a shock when she discovered she had also won the Smallwood Architects Prize. Sandra said: ‘winning an award was amazing especially as so few were given! It has become such a meaningful and important part of my resume. The Times also featured my photo when heralding the exhibition.’ 

Sandra went on to exhibit and auction her painting at Sotheby’s Gallery in New York. She says ‘Take every opportunity that is given. Exhibiting at The Royal Society of Portrait Painters Annual Exhibition at the Mall Galleries is about as good as it gets - be part of that exhibition, make that exhibition your goal because believe me, it can be life changing!’

 

We hope learning about the experiences of previous prize winners inspires you to submit your own work to this years’ open call. Find all the information you need to do so by clicking the link below:

Submit Your Work Now

Frances Bell RP | Winner of The William Lock Portrait Prize

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I'm delighted to have been awarded The William Lock Portrait Prize at the Royal Society of Portrait Painters Annual Exhibition 2021.

I'm just going to say a brief word on the portrait that has won the prize...

It's a self-portrait. Self-portraits are always fascinating territory for me, because I think in omitting so many of the influences that typically make up a portrait - the other people, the conversations you have with them, their faces, their ideas, mixed with your ideas lifted onto the canvas - instead of that, you have yourself. You're on your own, you are the sitter and painter. It's a very introspective and sort of circular atmosphere that comes through, and it's quite different for me.

Personally, I always feel that the atmosphere of self-portraits is sort of a spookier, more introspective thing. And I certainly felt that with this one, the largest one I've done. Technically, that was at times complicated. I painted it on the wall, and I have south light here, so it was actually a question of seizing one's moment because south light is a great deal more variable than north. I grabbed my moments over about a three week period. The posing was a bit difficult, trying to concentrate on the painting, but also managing to fall into the right pose. However I hugely enjoyed it. It is always fascinating, as always a voyage, a bit of a different journey. 

I can't believe that the painting has received recognition, let alone in such company, so I'm absolutely over the moon. Thank you very much.

- Frances Bell RP

 





 

 

Royal Society of Portrait Painters Annual Exhibition 2021 | Prize & Award Winners

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The Royal Society of Portrait Painters and Mall Galleries are delighted to announce the Prizes & Awards from the Royal Society of Portrait Painters Annual Exhibition 2021. 

Congratulations to all artists who have been awarded prizes by our generous prize givers. 

The exhibition is open at Mall Galleries until Saturday 15 May. 

Book Your Tickets

If you cannot make the exhibition we hope that with videos, audio, images, and statements by the winners to watch, hear, see, and read, you can experience and enjoy their works wherever you are.

The exhibition is available to browse & buy now.


The William Lock Portrait Prize

Frances Bell RP

Self Portrait

£20,000 for the most timeless portrait with a real feeling for paint and its aesthetic potential.

Buy Now


 

The Ondaatje Prize for Portraiture

Saied Dai RP NEAC

Portrait of the Artist's Wife

£10,000 plus the Society’s Gold Medal awarded for the most distinguished portrait in the Society’s annual exhibition.

Commission a Portrait by Saied Dai RP NEAC


The RP Award

Phoebe Dickinson

Alethea

£2,000 awarded to the artist whose work best represents the year's chosen theme - which for 2021 is 'Childhood'. The judges looked for the most interesting and engaging interpretation of the idea of 'childhood' within the parameters of portraiture.

 

Commission a portrait by Phoebe Dickinson


The RP Prize for the Best Small Portrait

Will Calver

Self Portrait in Hat

A prize of £2,000 for the best small portrait in the exhibition, measuring not more than 38 x 30.5 cm (15 x 12 inches) unframed.

Self Portrait in Hat is a small oil painting on linen, painted from life from an old mirror in my studio during the winter lockdown.

Over the last year, painting alone in the studio had begun to feel especially introspective, so I chose to turn my attention from still life to the mirror. I usually seek a sense of stillness and quietude in my still life paintings, and I tried in this painting to turn that same approach to a self-portrait.

I am so happy to be exhibiting at this year’s exhibition, especially alongside so many artists that I really look up to, and to have been given the ‘Best Small Portrait’ award feels like such a huge honour.

I would like to say a big thank you to Mall Galleries and the Royal Society of Portrait Painters, and I hope you enjoy the exhibition if you can make it.

Buy Now


The de Laszlo Foundation Award

Marco Bizzarri

Silente I

£3,000 plus a Silver Medal for the most outstanding portrait by an artist aged 35 years or under.

“Silente I” is a large-format work painted in acrylic on canvas. The way the face is painted allows the image to be seen just from the distance, because if you look at the painting closely, you can only see stains.

Therefore, this gesture tells us about our own indifference when looking. Thus, my intention is to show a daily reality: the constant blinding in front of what surrounds us.

The painting works as a metaphor for that estrangement, one that doesn’t allow us to perceive beyond our own needs, conditioned by personal shortcomings

The stain is an expression of that permanent indolence, it is the curtain that only allows us to notice silhouettes.

Buy Now


The Prince of Wales's Award for Portrait Drawing

Mantas Poderys

Self Portrait at the Age of 28

£2,000 and framed certificate for a portrait in any recognised drawing medium.

 

Commission a portrait by Mantas Poderys


Burke's Peerage Foundation Award 

Rupert Alexander

Jack Hudleston

The Burke’s Peerage Foundation Award, established by its founders William Bortrick and Mark Ayre in 2015, is presented for Classically Inspired Portraiture in the RP Annual Exhibition. It is presented each year with a certificate and a cheque for £2,000.

 

Commission a portrait by Rupert Alexander


Smallwood Architects Prize

Sandra Kuck

Portrait through a Prism

£1,000 for a portrait in which architectural or interior features play an important part.

 

Commission a portrait by Sandra Kuck



The exhibition is available to browse & buy now

Childhood through the eyes of Portrait Painters

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This year the Royal Society of Portrait Painters Annual Exhibition has a mini-theme of Childhood, and The RP Award will be presented for the best portrait on this theme.

Prizewinners will be announced here at 5pm on Thursday 6 May.

See the full collection of Childhood portraits on our Pinterest Board here

Frances Bell RP regularly paints children: "It’s usually far more of a collaborative process than parents expect it to be. They have to help the child come through to you. I usually pump the parents for information and they give you a lot.  When painting children they just sit there and sort of stare at you; they are hardly going to strike up a debate with you, so the parents are really important in helping you to flesh out their character traits...

I am very organic in my technique, when dealing with young people they are straight out of nature, they don’t have any sort of private side or public face they are just as they appear."

Frances Bell RP Flora Oil 

If you are interested in commission a portrait of your own children or grandchildren, you have come to the right place.

The Royal Society of Portraits artists are the very best and our service makes commissioning a portrait enjoyable and easy. You can work in one of two ways; either our expert consultant will guide you from your initial thought through to completion, or you can work directly with our artists through the website.

Find out about commissioning a portrait

Bryony Bensly Henry's Birds Oil 101 x 76 cm £12,000

The Royal Society of Portrait Painters Annual Exhibition 2021 is open from 6 to 15 May

Discover the whole exhibition

Book your timed ticket to attend

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Mark Roscoe RP, Portrait of my Children

Prize Winners | Royal Society of Portrait Painters Annual Exhibition 2020

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The Royal Society of Portrait Painters and Mall Galleries are delighted to announce the Prizes & Awards from the Royal Society of Portrait Painters Annual Exhibition 2020. 

Congratulations to all artists who have been awarded prizes by our generous prize givers. 

The exhibition is open at Mall Galleries until Saturday 26 September. 

Book Your Tickets

If you cannot make the exhibition we hope that with videos, audio, images, and statements by the winners to watch, hear, see, and read, you can experience and enjoy their works wherever you are.

The exhibition is also available to Browse & Buy online now. 



The Ondaatje Prize for Portraiture

Shuang Liu

Woman in a Stadtische Galerie

The work uses traditional European techniques to detail an elderly woman who lived in Germany during World War II.

The work expresses the sitter's inherent persistent spirit and conveys the vicissitudes of time. The dress is a reflection of contemporary tradition.


The de Laszlo Foundation Award

Nneka Uzoigwe

Lily Before the Play

A portrait painted from life of the wonderful Lily Holder prepared to go on stage.


Prince of Wales's Award for Portrait Drawing

Jack Freeman

Walkie Talkie

I made this drawing of Patricia after a walk through Grantchester near Cambridge. The evening light made the scene particularly poignant. I wanted to capture the feeling of a walk, late in the day, through countryside, and I think the smokey blackness of the charcoal - particularly as it works into this hand-made paper gives the picture a grainy sentimentality.


Burke's Peerage Foundation Award

Joshua Waterhouse

Dame Glynis Breakwell

I would like to thank the Royal Society of Portrait Painters and Burke's Peerage Foundation for this prize. It was such a pleasant surprise to hear that I won.

This is a study for a much larger painting of Dame Glynis Breakwell commissioned by the University of Bath of their retiring Vice-Chancellor. In the larger painting, the setting is much clearer; the Vice-Chancellor is sitting in her living room on an ornately embroidered chair surrounded by objects which tell the story of her career. In its reduced size, this painting hints at some of the finer details in the larger portrait but is dominated by the large yellow background.

I always paint on wood panels, which I prime in the studio. Before I start drawing, I always rub in a thin layer of transparent red oxide, just to get rid of any white. Once the drawing is established, I start blocking in the lights and darks by using Burnt Umber and Titanium White. Then for the second pass, I start introducing colour and try to establish a palette. For the third pass, I'll work much more meticulously using finer detail and adding nuance to the painting; then I add glazes if I feel that certain parts need cooling or warming or darkening.

Once everything is dry, I add a layer of retouched varnish … in order to re-saturate some of the colours that may have sunken in - this is particularly a problem for darker colours, especially ivory black (which you can see on the sitter’s dress).


Smallwood Architects Prize

Steven Wood

Sandancer

Sandancer is the name used to describe those who come from the town of South Shields, Tyne & Wear, although the term is hardly known by anyone outside the local area.

The sitter, Julie Kassim, is on one of the different beaches in South Shields in a place called Frenchman’s Cove. Scattered around the painting are symbolic of runes that represent her spirituality and beliefs in the supernatural and white magic.

The image is placed in landscape form giving the viewer a sense of floating above her.


The RP Prize for the Best Small Portrait

Robbie Wraith RP

Studio Portrait


The RP Award

Stephen Leho

The Most Important Thing in the World

The sitter holds a small mobile she made, it represents the solar system. She has unsettled it and is straightening the threads.

The painting is about mental health and emphasises the need to stay in the present.



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Frances Bell Paints Commissioner Cressida Dick to Celebrate the Met’s 100 Years of Women

Cressida Dick by Frances Bell.jpg

A portrait of the first female Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police Service, Cressida Dick has been unveiled to mark the centenary of women in the Met.

Newly appointed member of Royal Society of Portrait Painters, Frances Bell RP, created the oil painting which has taken its place at the Met Police Training School in Hendon, alongside the paintings of 26 former Commissioners. They include Sir Cecil Frederick Nevil Macready, who on 22 November 1918, officially announced that the Met would have female police officers for the first time.

Normally painted at the end of a Commissioner’s five years in office, the idea to commission Cressida’s portrait early was borne during the celebrations to mark that very decision and the bravery of those pioneers of the past, and achievements of current Met women. Painting the first female Commissioner, during these celebrations would capture the mood and feeling of the moment, and inspire future Met people.

Painted in Frances Bell’s studio over more than 20-hours of sittings, the portrait depicts the Commissioner against the backdrop of a map of London - symbolising her long policing career in London and personal affinity with the Capital.  In contrast to other portraits Cressida sat wearing her shirt uniform and no tunic.

Commissioner Cressida Dick, said: “The strength of feeling for the portrait surprised me, but I understand and appreciate that it is an important part of the 100-years celebrations, symbolises the nature of the current Met and maybe important in inspiring the next generation of Met people.  I am very grateful to the artist, Frances Bell who put me at great ease and made the whole process an interesting and surprisingly enjoyable one.”

Frances Bell, who elected as a member of prestigious Royal Society of Portrait Painters Portrait last year, said: “I was thrilled to receive the instruction to paint the Commissioner through the Royal Society of Portrait Painters. It’s such a fine occasion to mark with an art work, as portraits can represent historic moments so well. 100 years of women in our police, and a female Commissioner on this anniversary is the kind of coincidence a painter can appreciate.”


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Cressida Dick by Frances Bell.jpg

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Cressida Dick by Frances Bell RP