A mother, a homeless man and a fashionista battle it out for 2014 BP Portrait Award

By Richard Moss | 17 April 2014 | Updated: 14 April 2014

A record-breaking 2,377 entries, 55  selected for the exhibition and just three selected for the final. It’s National Portrait Gallery BP Portrait Award time again

a trio of portraits of a man in a blanket, a woman with eyes lowered and a woman with short bobbed grey hair
(left to right): Man with a Plaid Blanket by Thomas Ganter © Thomas Ganter; Letter to my Mom by David Jon Kassan © David Jon Kassan; Jean Woods by Richard Twose © Richard Twose
An elderly fashionista, a homeless man and the artist’s mother are the three portraits that have battled their way through the 2,377 entries to make the final of the National Portrait Gallery’s BP Portrait Award.

Celebrating 35 years at the gallery (and 25 with BP as the headline sponsor), this year’s competition, which also features the exhibition of 55 selected portraits, enjoyed a record-breaking year for entries.

The prize money was increased last year by £5,000 to £30,000 and with £10,000 and £8,000 for the runners up and a Young Artist Award of £7,000 for an entrant aged between 18 and 30, it is one of the world's most lucrative art competitions.

German artist Thomas Ganter’s Man with a Plaid Blanket was painted after he encountered a homeless man called Karel, following a visit to a museum. Ganter said he was “stunned by a similarity” in the way the man's clothes and pose resembled what he had just seen in various paintings.

“However, this time I was looking at a homeless person wrapped in a blanket and not at the painting of a saint or noble in their elaborate garment," adds Ganter, who says that in portraying a homeless man in a manner reserved for nobles or saints he has “tried to emphasise that everyone deserves respect and care. Human dignity shouldn’t be relative or dependent on socio-economic status."

Brooklyn-based David Jon Kassan describes how he persuaded his reluctant mother to sit for his Letter to my Mom by offering her a painting of his son Lucas.

“I tell her in the painting that by painting her, it is my way of spending time with her, contemplating our relationship and time together, my earliest memories,” he says.

Richard Twose's portrait of Jean Woods captures a former fashion model who was featured in Channel Four's documentary Fabulous Fashionistas.

He says he was struck by her professionalism as a sitter – derived from her recent experience as a fashion model and from a quality of stillness she seems to possess naturally.

“Sometimes as Jean was talking, especially about her much-missed late husband, she reminded me of Rembrandt's Portrait of Margaretha de Geer,” he adds. “Jean has a similar intensity and honesty in her gaze.”

The exhibition of all the portraits opens at the National Portrait Gallery on June 26 2014 (until September 21). One of the exhibited artists will also be eligible for the BP Travel Award 2014, an annual award of £6,000, which allows artists to experience working in a different environment on a project related to portraiture.

All of the award winners will be announced on the evening of June 24.

What do you think? Leave a comment below.

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