A tender portrait of a “tired” but “in love” breastfeeding mother has won the BP Portrait Award.
Benjamin Sullivan’s Breech! shows his wife Virginia and their eight-month-old daughter Edith.
The judges said it reminded them of Madonna and Child portraits and showed “the depth of the maternal bond”.
Sullivan, who was born in Grimsby and lives in Suffolk, received £30,000 and a gallery commission worth £5,000 at the National Portrait Gallery, London.
He came third in last year’s competition, for a portrait of poet Hugo Williams, and has been selected 13 times – a record – for the BP Portrait Award exhibition.
Broadcaster and judge Kirsty Wark said of the winning artwork: “The woman is tired. She is in love. Her life has changed forever. We know her.”
Sullivan said he wanted the portrait to celebrate the new arrival, as well as mark the difficult time he and his wife had during the birth of Edith – who was a breech baby, as referred to in the title of the portrait.
He added that it was a time when “a sense of calm descended after the usual period of disarrangement that new parents face”.
The 40-year-old often paints family members, saying that “the emotional connection between sitter and artist is at the root of all successful portraits”.
Breech! was painted over a four-to-five-week period in his studio “when Edith’s co-operation was forthcoming”.
Thomas Ehretsmann was awarded second prize, and £10,000, for Double Portrait – showing his wife Caroline walking in a park when she was eight months pregnant.
The judges said the portrait, painted with layers of semi-transparent acrylic paint, showed Caroline’s “sense of stillness, strength and serenity”.
The third prize of £8,000 went to Antony Williams for his portrait of friend Emma Bruce, simply titled Emma, and the judges said his “distinctive technique” made the painting look “almost sculptural”.
The model has been sitting for Williams for 11 years at his studio in Chertsey, and he said he wanted to show her vulnerability and determination.
New Zealand artist Henry Christian-Slane won the BP Young Artist Award of £7,000 for Gabi, showing his partner Gabi Lardies. The 26-year-old said he believes the painting – being of someone he knows so well – “balances being analytical and instinctual”.
The BP Portrait Award 2017 exhibition is at the National Portrait Gallery from 22 June to 24 September and admission is free.
Source: art bbc