BP Portrait Award 2013

Kapka: Heterochrome

(National Portrait Gallery, London, until 15 September 2013)

Wilting slightly in the glorious heat, I popped into the cool halls of the National Portrait Gallery this lunchtime, to see this year’s BP Portrait Award exhibition. As ever it was an intriguing array of styles, techniques and concepts – some of which I liked, some of which I didn’t – and, as ever, I came away with a little collection of personal favourites.

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BP Portrait Award 2012

Cumberland: Self Portrait

(National Portrait Gallery, London, until 23 September 2012)

Once again it’s time for the annual BP Portrait Award exhibition.  These shows are always popular, partly because they’re free and partly because it’s part of human nature to be fascinated by images of other people.  You find yourself trying to tease out the stories behind the portraits, to judge the character of the person represented, or the relationship between artist and sitter.

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BP Portrait Award 2011

Mikulka: Jakub

National Portrait Gallery, London (16 June – 18 September 2011)

The first thing to say about this year’s Portrait Award is that the standard is very high.  There are a few weaker pictures but generally the portraits are arresting and technically very impressive.  I confess that I’m always drawn to intense close-ups of faces, which I feel really bring out a personality, and there were a couple of particularly striking ones in the show.  One was Jakub by Jan Mikulka, which from a distance looks exactly like a photograph.  Only at close range can you distinguish the brushstrokes and see the image dissolve into careful arcs of paint.  It’s remarkable; and I was also touched by the sitter’s haunted, slightly sulky expression, which makes him look very young.

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