The RBSA Portrait Prize: showcasing the best in contemporary art

You don’t have to go to London to see world-class art, according to the President of the RBSA, Robert Neil.

The Portrait Prize exhibition is a biennial prize featuring a wealth of contemporary works by artists at the top of their game. This year was no exception, and winners were announced at the closing party on August 18:

Congratulations go to:

  1. GMC Prize, £1,000 cash: Katia Kesic, whole submission

  2. Ken Bromley Art Prize: Karin Hessenberg, ‘The Floral Sun Hat’

  3. Jackson Art Prize: Steve Caldwell, ‘Pauline’

  4. Highly Commended: Chris Salmon RBSA, ‘Portrait’

  5. Highly Commended: Thomas Merrett, ‘Alessandro’

  6. Highly Commended: Robert Neil PRBSA, ‘Janette Kerr PPRWA’

  7. People’s Choice Prize: Chris Jones, ‘Lils’

Robert Neil, who has himself exhibited at the National Portrait Gallery’s BP Portrait Award, says: “This was an opportunity to see genuinely world-class portrait artists regularly exhibiting in national and international exhibitions.

“We attract some very important artists who have shown their work in the many of the most prestigious venues around the world, so it really is true that you don’t have to go to the capital… sometimes it comes to us.”

Portraiture offers a window on the modern world, as its subjects are often in everyday settings.

Portrait Prize exhibits include a diverse range of works and subjects. A multitude of themes reflect the contemporary concerns of our times: identity, family, work, gender, disability, and culture.

A selection of paintings from this year’s exhibition:

The Portrait Prize judges for 2017 are themselves respected artists: John Davenport provides a vital link as a Member of the RBSA, Tim Benson is Vice President of the Royal Institute of Oil Painters and James Lloyd is a former winner of the BP Award, and has painted the Queen.

Robert adds: “One of the main advantages of having three judges is that they each come at the process from a different angle, and have selected a really diverse and interesting group of works.

“Where there’s a monetary prize, we always invite judges from outside the Society so that the selection is truly independent and fair.

In his own work, Robert focuses on portraiture and figurative painting, which he believes has enjoyed greater recognition in recent years and will continue to flourish.

“There was a period when some art schools stopped teaching drawing and painting, but I believe we are now seeing a move back to more traditional skills.”

This is good news for the RBSA, as the Society is very much built on the foundations of traditional skills in art education.

But that doesn’t mean the artwork is stuffy. Far from it, says Robert: “The Society has a long and illustrious history but we must make sure we fully represent the fantastic diversity of art in our region”.

“I would say that an awareness of historic disciplines can yield compelling contemporary art, and that’s what you will see at the Portrait Prize.

“And portraiture is very accessible because people always enjoy seeing how artists evoke the complexity of the human face and what that says about the artists and sitters.

“Portrait exhibitions are always extremely popular with visitors. There’s a real fascination with this genre.”

Did you know…

You can talk to the gallery about commissioning a portrait.

Our Own Art scheme makes the process affordable through an interest free loan: artwork valued at over £100 can be paid for in ten instalments.

Why not visit the RBSA over the summer and enjoy some inspirational art?

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