A tender portrait of a family friend, a woman affectionately known as Auntie and trusting enough to pose for a larger-than-lifesize painting that exposes every sag and crease, has won the £25,000 BP Portrait prize for the 26-year-old American artist Aleah Chapin.
The competition is now open to any artist aged over 18, and Chapin beat a record entry of more than 2,100 entries from 74 countries, including almost 1,500 submissions from the UK. She will also win a £4,000 commission to make a work for the gallery’s collection.
Auntie is one of a series of portraits of unrelated women Chapin has known all her life, whom she gathered for a group photo session on an island off Seattle, where she was born, though she is now based in New York.
The artist said: “The fact that she has known me since birth is extremely important. Her body is a map of her journey through life. In her I see the personification of strength through an unguarded and accepting presence.”
Sandy Nairne, the director of the National Portrait Gallery, described the work as “ambitious and beautifully painted, with superbly controlled colour and tone. She is a very deserving winner of the 2012 BP Award, which once again demonstrates the vitality of contemporary portrait painting around the world.”
The second prize went a Spanish artist Ignacio Estudillo, who lives and works in Córdoba, for a monochrome portrait of his grandfather.
Third prize went to a largely self-taught London-based artist, Alan Coulson, who has twice before made the portrait award exhibition, for a portrait of a friend and fellow artist, Richie Culver, displaying his opulently tattooed arms in a white T-shirt with the sleeves rolled up.
Chapin would also have been eligible for the young artist award for artists under 30: it went to Jamie Routley, born in 1982, for a triple portrait of Tony Lewis, a well known figure to many Londoner commuters from his newspaper stand at Baron’s Court tube station.
The travel prize went to Carl Randall, from his proposal to follow in the footsteps of the 19th century printmaker Ando Hiroshige, creating portraits of local people reflecting life in modern Japan.
The exhibition of a selection of 55 works, including the winners, opens at the gallery in London this week, and will then tour to the Scottish National Portrait Gallery this winter, and then the Royal Albert Museum in Exeter in spring .
Category: Art News