A moving portrait of a mother wins the BP Portrait Award 2018 with a stylish, technically impressive painting.

This is the 29th BP Portrait Award and, if anyone thought that painted portraits don’t have a place in a time of photography and the ubiquitous ‘selfie’, this is proof that the desire to make pictures of people using ‘old-school’ media is very much alive and kicking.

I guess the clue is in the name – BP is all about oil and the majority of the paintings on show have been made using oil paints.  This sometimes frustrates me because I’m a great advocate of mixed media (and of course paper collage). But I was blown away by the talent on show at this year’s exhibition.

I would think that photos have been used as reference tools for many of the pictures. It’s just impossible to keep a subject still for any length of time and many of the paintings seemed to capture fleeting moments, glances, and glimpses of personality and emotion.  I think that’s hard to do with a sitter who’s getting a bit itchy and uncomfortable.


The winning portrait, An Angel at My Table by Miriam Escofet is remarkably proficient.  It’s quite photo-realistic but then there is a beguiling ornament which seems to be moving – the angel, perhaps? And the wistful look of the woman sitting amongst the cool, blue china cups and saucers is captivating.

I always look for evidence of brush stroke and the sheer joy of slapping oil paint on canvas. I was encouraged to see that Second Prize went to Felicia Forte for her painting entitled Time Traveller, Matthew Napping.  It’s more a portrait of a moment than the actual person and I loved the big, bold colours and exuberance of the process which is clear to see.


The BP Portrait exhibition is free to visit – it’s in a different gallery this year which makes it feel rather smaller than usual ( I don’t know if that’s true) but it’s always worth a visit.



http://www.npg.org.uk   www.bp.com/arts

It’s on until 23rd September 2018




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