The winner of the BP Portrait Award 2015 was announced at the National Portrait Gallery on Tuesday. The prestigious first prize – in the 26th year of BP’s sponsorship of the competition – was won by 35-year-old Israeli artist Matan Ben-Cnaan, for Annabelle and Guy, a striking allegorical portrait of the artist’s friend and step-daughter as if contemplating their tragic fate in the blinding sunlight of Israel’s Jezreel Valley.
The judges were impressed by the highly charged and unsettling portrait in which the artist chose to depict his sitters as though they were facing tragedy in an echo of the Biblical story of Jephthah. In this story an Israelite judge vowed on entering battle that should he win, he will sacrifice the first thing that greets him upon his home-coming, believing it to be a dog. However, on his return, it is his daughter who rushes out in welcome. Realising the tragic mistake he has made, he upholds his vow and sacrifices his child.
Matan Ben-Cnaan was presented with £30,000 and a commission, at the National Portrait Gallery Trustees’ discretion, worth £5,000.
The second prize of £10,000 went to Leicester-based artist Michael Gaskell, 51, for Eliza, a portrait depicting his niece Eliza, who agreed to sit for him in early 2014 at the age of 14, having first sat for a portrait for her uncle when she was a very small child.
The third prize of £8,000 went to Spanish artist Borja Buces Renard, 36, for My Mother and My Brother on a Sunday Evening, a portrait of his mother Paloma and his brother Jaime in the living room of his parents’ house. His father who had been ill for some time passed away a few weeks after the painting was finished.
All these portraits, along with the other finalists, can be seen at the National Portrait Gallery from today, Thursday 18th June, when the BP Portrait Award 2015 exhibition opens to the public.
Daily 10am – 6pm
Thursday and Friday until 9pm
National Portrait Gallery
St Martin’s Place
London WC2H 0HE