Susanne du Toit has been awarded the BP Portrait Award 2013 prize. It was announced at the National Portrait Gallery yesterday. The prestigious first prize was won by 57-year-old artist, for Pieter, a powerful painting of her eldest son.
Educated at the University of Pretoria and the Massachusetts College of Art, Boston, Susanne du Toit is an artist now based in Crowthorne, Berkshire. She has won for her portrait of her eldest son Pieter, aged 35. The sitting took place in the artist’s studio, as part of a series of portraits of her family.
Susanne du Toit says she allowed Pieter to find his own pose, with the condition that his hands would appear prominently in the composition – she says she has always found hands essential to communicating personality. ‘I look to the body to provide as much expression as the face’, she says. ‘Having said that, the averted gaze of this portrait, which was his choice, struck me as characteristic of his reflective character, and became intensely engaging.’
Ms du Toit wins the £30,000 prize and a commission, at the National Portrait Gallery Trustees’ discretion, worth £5,000. The portrait can be seen at the National Portrait Gallery from Thursday 20 June 2013 when the BP Portrait Award 2013 exhibition opens to the public.
Sandy Nairne, Director, National Portrait Gallery, says: ‘The standard of the BP Portrait Award 2013 is as high as ever, and congratulations go to all the artists, but especially to Susanne du Toit for her simple but outstanding portrait of her son.’
The second prize of £10,000 went to Coventry-based artist and teacher John Devane, 58, for The Uncertain Time, a striking group portrait depicting his children Lucy, Laura and Louis.
Mr Devane is a painter who also teaches at Coventry University, John Devane has an MA from the Royal College of Art. He has been shortlisted for his large group portrait of his three children: Lucy, 25, Laura, 20, and Louis, 15. Painted over three years, the picture sets out to show how children emerge from childhood and begin to assert their independence revealing something of their adult selves. He says: ‘The composition suggests an almost stage-like shallow space constructed in two zones with the three figures presented as if they are awaiting some kind of event.’ The artist’s key points of reference are the works of Courbet, Chardin, Degas, Balthus and Samuel Beckett. This will be the second time John Devane’s work has been exhibited at the BP Portrait Award, his In the House of The Cellist was seen in the 1995 exhibition.
The BP Travel Award 2013 winner was also announced last night. The BP Travel Award is an annual award to allow artists to experience working in a different environment on a project related to portraiture. It is open to applications from any of the BP Portrait Award-exhibited artists, and this year the prize has increased to £6,000.
This year the BP Travel Award has been awarded to Bristol-based Dutch Artist Sophie Ploeg. Having studied Art & Architectural History at universities in The Netherlands, Ploeg, 39, won for her proposal to explore how fashion and lace was represented in 17th century art, as well as in modern applications. She will visit famous lace-making centres such as Bruges in Belgium and Honiton in Devon, modern lace makers and artists, antique lace collections and 17th century art collections, as well as to undertake literary research. Sophie’s final work will be inspired by her findings and will be displayed in the BP Portrait Award 2014 exhibition.