You can’t help but feel pleased for the BP Portrait Award winners. They’re not famous and they probably don’t earn a fortune, but their portraits have been selected from 1901 entries to represent the best in the country.
The winners were a closely guarded secret until last night’s awards ceremony, when they were invited up on stage to collect their awards in front of cultural luminaries such as Sebastian Faulks, Jon Snow and Gillian Wearing.
Peter Monkman, an art teacher from Surrey, won top prize for a luminous painting of his daughter, Anna. Strangely, he says the portrait is one of a series exploring the idea of a changeling – a child secretly substituted with an elf.
You can see the winning portraits and the best of the other submissions at the National Portrait Gallery.
Many of the artists in the exhibition have chosen to focus on their family. Stephen Earl Rodgers submitted a portrait of his young son, Beau, scowling. Rodgers says, “This is not the sum total of his character, but I expect to see this expression a lot more as he gets older.”
Sue Rubira painted a close-up, wrinkes-and-all picture of her mother, and says, “I chose to position her purposefully under a skylight, which presented her in the natural, unembellished state most familiar to me.”
Other highlights include a portrait by Karl Rudziak of Portsmouth FC supporter John Anthony Portsmouth Football Club Westwood, whose body is covered in Portsmouth tattoos (including “Play up Pompey” on his cheek).
And don’t miss the tiny portraits by Emmanouil Bitsakis, right at the back of the gallery. Bitsakis won the BP Travel Award last year, and spent time painting the minority Uigur people of North West China.
The BP Portrait Award exhibition opens tomorrow and runs until 20 September. Entry is free.