BP Portrait Award

Scottish National Portrait Gallery

29 Nov 2014 – 12 Apr 2015

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Showcasing the most outstanding and innovative new portraits from around the world.

Fifty-five works – selected from a record-breaking 2,377 entries – reveal the variety of different approaches to the contemporary painted portrait.

For the first time in the 25-year history of the award, portraits by a husband and wife have both had work selected for the exhibition. Judges chose Henrietta Hall's seven-foot study of TV personality James Martin, as well as Tim Hall’s portrait, capturing his wife with their pug dog, Ollie, as she works on her series of paintings of chefs in their shared studio.

The couple have been married for seven years and live in The Net Loft in the fishing village of Mousehole, Cornwall. The BP Portrait Award is judged anonymously, so the link between the two artists wasn't discovered until after the selection process. 

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The exhibition includes portraits by the three finalists.

First Prize: Thomas Ganter, Man with a Plaid Blanket

The German artist won first prize for his portrait capturing a homeless car-windscreen cleaner named Karel. A chance sighting outside Frankfurt’s Städel provided Ganter with the inspiration for the piece; having spent a rainy afternoon viewing the museum's collection of Old Masters he was struck by the similarities between the paintings and the homeless man he noticed on the street. Karel attended five sittings for the portrait in which the head and the hands were painted. After these Ganter used a life-sized doll, and painted the clothes and the blanket before finally adding the artificial flower at the bottom right. This is the first time a German artist has won the top prize in the competition’s 25 year history.

Second Prize: Richard Twose, Jean Woods

Twose, a teacher and artist, first noticed Jean Woods, when she was working in a shop in his hometown, Bath. He was drawn to her striking looks and edgy style, but was also to the depth of character in her face. After Woods appeared in Channel Four's documentary Fabulous Fashionistas, Twose’s daughter told him she was the grandmother of a friend. The artist called her and asked to sit for him, and was impressed by her professionalism as a sitter - the result of her recent experience as a fashion model.

Third Prize: David Jon Kassan, Letter to my Mom

Born in Little Rock, Arkansas, Kassan invited his mother and father to sit for him in his studio in New York City while they made a brief stop on their way to Europe. He had painted his mother a few years before, and he says she was reluctant to sit for him again. In order to persuade her, Kassan says he had to bribe her with a painting of his own son Lucas. The Hebrew text painted onto the portrait above the sitter reads: ‘Dear Mom,/ This painting is my way to spend more time with you./ My way to meditate on our life together./ And all of the earliest memories I have / All of my earliest memories from you’.

Video: BP Portrait Award shortlist.

Venue information

Opening times

Daily, 10am – 5pm (Thu until 7pm)

Closed 25 – 26 Dec

"Art Fund" is the operating name of the National Art Collections Fund, a charity registered in England and Wales (209174) and Scotland (SC038331)