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Third time lucky for the girl in a Liberty dress as British painter wins BP Portrait Award 2016

Release date:
22 June 2016
Clara Drummond wins £30,000 for her third BP Portrait Award painting of Kirsty Buchanan
Girl in a Liberty Dress, painting by Clara Drummond

The winner of the BP Portrait Award 2016 has been announced at the National Portrait Gallery, Tuesday 21 June 2016. The prestigious first prize – in the 27th year of BP’s sponsorship of the competition – was won by 38-year-old Cambridgeshire-based artist Clara Drummond, for Girl in a Liberty Dress, a striking portrait of her friend and fellow artist Kirsty Buchanan.


Drummond was selected for the BP Portrait Award in 2013 and 2014 for portraits of the same sitter, having previously been selected with different sitters in 2006 and 2009. When Kirsty sat for Clara for this portrait she wore a vintage Liberty dress inspired by the fact that both artists were working on an exhibition at the time with the William Morris Society Archive.


The judges, including artist Jenny Saville and writer Alan Hollinghurst, were impressed by the portrait’s skilful execution and its subtle and enigmatic qualities. Athlete Jessica Ennis-Hill presented Clara Drummond with £30,000 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 23 June when the BP Portrait Award 2016 exhibition opens to the public.


The second prize of £10,000 went to Chinese artist Bo Wang, 34, for Silence, a portrait depicting his grandmother lying on her hospital bed a month before she died.


The third prize of £8,000 went to artist Benjamin Sullivan, 39, for Hugo, a portrait of the poet Hugo Williams painted in the study of his Islington home.

Silence (l) and Hugo

First prize: Clara Drummond (27.09.1977) 

Girl in a Liberty Dress (260 x 370 mm, oil on board)

Born in Edinburgh, Cambridgeshire-based Clara Drummond studied modern languages at Cambridge University before going on to study at the Prince’s Drawing School. Her portrait of Girl in a Liberty Dress is of her friend, the artist Kirsty Buchanan who would wear a vintage Liberty dress at sittings. Both artists were working with the William Morris Society archive on an exhibition and were looking at the hand drawn patterns for fabrics, wallpapers and tapestries by Jane Morris and May Morris, William Morris's wife and daughter. Drummond says of Kirsty that 'she is inspiring because she is always immersed in the ideas around whatever she is making at the time, history, nature, mythology and art all feed into her work, so when I am drawing or painting her it feels more like a collaboration than a portrait sitting.' Previous portraits include artist and model Iris Palmer for BP Portrait Award 2009, and her friend, actor Ben Whishaw, from 2005.


Judges’ comments – Girl in a Liberty Dress

‘This year’s overall winner was noted by all of the judges for its subtle, enigmatic nature, and for the indelible impression the artist’s skill makes on the viewer.’


Second prize: Bo Wang (03.12.1981)

Silence (1000 x 1160 mm, tempera on board)

Chinese artist Bo Wang is a lecturer at Suzhou University of Science and Technology in Jiangsu. He studied at the Ilia Repin St Petersburg Academic Institute for Painting, Sculpture and Architecture and has exhibited at the National Art Museum of China, in Beijing, and the Xinjiang International Exhibition Centre. His portrait, Silence, depicts his grandmother lying on the hospital bed a month before she died, while she was in the terminal stages of cancer and losing her ability to speak. ‘Sometimes she tilted her head and looked at me,’ says Bo Wang. ‘There was too much emotion in her eyes to be expressed in words. I almost forgot about painting techniques or any specific style, just trying to use my brushes to communicate silently with my grandma. I can strongly feel the state of a dying life when I think of her eyes’. Bo Wang says the work of Paul Gauguin is always in his mind when thinking of this portrait especially the artist’s enigmatically titled masterpiece – Where are we from? Who are we? Where shall we go?


Judges’ comments – Silence

‘The judges found that Bo Wang’s portrait of his grandmother in a hospital bed as she lay dying was a moving and deeply affecting portrait.’


Third prize: Benjamin Sullivan (10.05.1977)

Hugo (460 x 360 mm, oil on canvas)

Grimsby-born Benjamin Sullivan, who lives in Suffolk, gained a BA (Hons) in Drawing and Painting from Edinburgh College of Art. His portrait of Hugo Williams was painted in the study of the poet’s Islington home and Sullivan says the sittings were ‘accompanied by, very loud, Elvis and early Cajun music’. The artist had been an admirer of Williams’s poetry, especially his Billy’s Rain collection, and after being introduced to him at a private view in 2014 by a friend, the poet Stephen Romer, Williams agreed to sit for a portrait. Sullivan’s work has been seen regularly in the exhibitions of the New English Art Club, the Royal Society of Portrait Painters and he was selected for display 12 times for the BP Portrait Award in 2002, and 2006 to 2015. He has been artist-in-residence at All Soul’s College, Oxford, and the Reform Club, Pall Mall. Sullivan’s portrait of the cosmologist and astrophysicist Professor Martin Rees was commissioned by the National Portrait Gallery.


Judges’ comments – Hugo

‘Finely rendered on a small scale, we thought the portrait gave us a strong sense of the presence of the sitter, the poet, Hugo Williams. The painting’s ageless quality is subtly balanced by the appearance of the modern wrist-watch.’


BP Young Artist award: Jamie Coreth

The BP Young Artist Award of £7,000 for the work of a selected entrant aged between 18 and 30 has been won by British artist Jamie Coreth for Dad Sculpting Me. 

Dad Sculpting Me, by Jamie Coreth

Dad Sculpting Me, by Jamie Coreth

Jamie Coreth, 26, who was born in London but brought up in Dorset and Wiltshire, is the winner of the BP Young Artist Award. He wins for a portrait of his sculptor father, Mark Coreth, painted entirely from life over the course of a month in his sculpture studio. Jamie Coreth undertook a BA (Hons) degree in archaeology and anthropology at Keble College, Oxford before studying at the London Atelier of Representational Art and the Florence Academy of Art. His work has been seen in group exhibitions in London. As an ex-officer for the Blues and Royals, Mark Coreth is seen wearing his old tank boiler suit, which is covered, says the artist, in ‘great flecks of plaster from previous sculptural adventures’. Coreth says: ‘My father has influenced me greatly in my work and given that it is a relatively strange thing for a sculptor to raise a painter, I thought it could be an interesting father–son project to make portraits of one another at the same time.’


Judges’ comments – Dad Sculpting Me


‘We were drawn to the timeless quality of the painting and its treatment of a father and son relationship through art. It is a generational painting of the artist’s father sculpting a portrait of the artist.’

BP Travel Award 2016 and 2015

The winner of the BP Travel Award 2016, an annual prize to enable artists to work in a different environment on a project related to portraiture, was also announced last night. The prize of £6,000 is open to applications from any of this year’s BP Portrait Award-exhibited artists, except the prize-winners. It has been awarded to Lithuanian artist Laura Guoke who won for her proposal to travel to one of the refugee camps in Greece. She plans to use sketches, photographs and filmed material to create large-format portraits of the most vulnerable refugees from Syria and the volunteers helping them.


The work of the BP Travel Award 2015 winner, French artist Magali Cazo, is on display  at this year’s exhibition. She won for her proposal to travel to a community of bronze-smelters in Bobo-Dioulasso, Burkina Faso, West Africa. There she lived with and represented the artists, apprentices and labourers whose lives revolve around the foundry. Magali was inspired by the vivid colours of the landscape, the architecture and the clothes on a previous visit to Bobo-Dioulasso and has used the sketches made on that trip to develop a series of portraits on wood.


The BP Portrait Award 2016 received 2,557 entries from 80 countries. Judged anonymously, 53 portraits have been selected for the exhibition (National Portrait Gallery, London, 23 June-4 September 2016, Admission free). In 2015 the BP Portrait Award received 329,556 visitors.


The Portrait Award, now in its 37th year at the National Portrait Gallery and 27th year of sponsorship by BP, is a highly successful annual event aimed at encouraging artists to focus upon, and develop, the theme of painted portraiture within their work. The BP Portrait Award, one of the world’s most prestigious art competitions, has a First Prize of £30,000, making it one of the largest for any global arts competition.


Dr Nicholas Cullinan, Chair of Judges and Director, National Portrait Gallery, London, says: ‘Many congratulations to all our prizewinning and exhibited artists. In my first year as judge of the BP Portrait Award it has been fascinating to see such a range of portraits from artists from around the world. I hope our visitors will enjoy the selection for the exhibition which brings together some really striking examples of the contemporary portrait.’  


Ms Des Violaris, Director, UK Arts and Culture, BP, says: ‘For 50 years BP has proudly supported the very best in UK arts and culture. The BP Portrait Award showcases the best and brightest portraiture from around the world, making it freely available to hundreds of thousands of visitors each year. On behalf of everyone at BP I would like to congratulate Clara and all the finalists on providing a diverse and engaging exhibition.’

Notes to editors

The BP Portrait Award 2016 competition was judged from original paintings by: Nicholas Cullinan, Director, National Portrait Gallery, London (Chair); Christopher Baker, Director, Scottish National Portrait Gallery, Edinburgh; Alan Hollinghurst, writer; Sarah Howgate, Senior Curator, Contemporary Collections, National Portrait Gallery, London; Jenny Saville, artist; Des Violaris, Director, UK Arts & Culture, BP.


The BP Travel Award 2016 was judged by Paul Moorhouse, Head of Collections Displays (Victorian to Contemporary) and Senior Curator of 20th Century Collections Curator, National Portrait Gallery, London;  Richard Twose, artist and BP Portrait Award Second Prize winner in 2014, and Des Violaris, Director, UK Arts and Culture, BP.  


The BP Travel Award 2015 was judged by Sarah Howgate, Contemporary Curator, National Portrait Gallery, Peter Monkman, artist and BP Portrait Award First Prize winner 2009, and Des Violaris, Director, UK Arts and Culture, BP.



The exhibition will tour to Usher Gallery, Lincoln (12 September – 13 November 2016) and Scottish National Portrait Gallery, Edinburgh (26 November 2016 - 26 March 2017.)    



A fully illustrated catalogue accompanies the exhibition and features an essay by award-winning writer Ali Smith. The BP Portrait Award 2016 is published 23 June 2016, and includes over 70 colour illustrations, price £9.99 (pbk).


Family trail

The National Portrait Gallery will be working with children's picture book illustrator Emily Rand to produce drawings for a free family trail available throughout the duration of the BP Portrait Award 2016. www.emilyrand.com         


BP Portrait Award: Next Generation...

...is an exciting project offering free opportunities for 14-21 year-olds to creatively engage with painted portraiture through the BP Portrait Award. For the seventh year, young people will be able to connect with past BP Portrait Award-winning artists, meet other young people interested in portraiture and create their own portraits through a series of programmes including Taster Sessions, Drop-in Drawing, three-day Summer Schools, the fourth after-hours Young People’s Private View, an onsite display showcasing the project, and youth-generated digital content including video interviews with artists and participants. BP Portrait Award: Next Generation has so far engaged over 2,500 young people, onsite and regionally. Bookings for programmes are open now, and applications for Summer Schools open on 23 June. www.npg.org.uk/bpnextgeneration   #bpnextgen  


BP Portrait Award 2016 – overall figures

Total entrants 2,557 (UK entries 1,241, International entries 1,316)


BP Portrait Award 2016 – exhibition figures (53 selected from total entry)

England (23), United States (9), Germany (3), France (2), Ireland (2), Spain (2), Italy (2), Scotland (3), China (1), Russia (1), New Zealand (1), South Africa (1), Lithuania (1), Columbia (1), Northern Ireland (1) 


BP support for UK arts and culture

In the UK, BP is a major supporter of the arts with a programme that spans over 50 years. BP’s investment in long term partnerships with the British Museum, the National Portrait Gallery, the Royal Opera House, the Royal Shakespeare Company and Tate Britain represent one of the most significant long-term corporate investments in UK arts and culture. www.bp.com/arts


BP Portrait Award 2016 – exhibited artists

  • Brett Amory, United States
  • Diego Aznar Remon, Spain
  • Elena Vladimir Baranoff, United States
  • Frances Borden, England
  • John Borowicz, United States
  • Martin Brooks, England
  • Noah Buchanan, United States
  • Richard Burger, England
  • Lewis Chamberlain, England
  • Alexander Chamberlin, England
  • Sopio Chkhikvadze, England
  • Jamie Coreth, England
  • Saied Dai, England
  • Boris Dobre, Germany
  • Clara Drummond, England
  • Thomas Ehretsmann, France
  • Samantha Fellows, England
  • Benjamin Fenske, United States
  • Jorge Federico Fernandez Gartner, Colombia
  • Ivan Franco Fraga, Spain
  • Jane Gardiner, Scotland
  • Fiona Graham-McKay, England
  • Laura Guoke, Lithuania
  • Jacob Hayes, United States
  • Eileen Hogan, England
  • Vadim Kadzhaev, Russia
  • Wolfgang Kessler, Germany
  • Antonio Laglia, Italy
  • Joshua LaRock, United States
  • Miseon Lee, Ireland
  • Gentian Lulanaj, Ireland
  • Charlie Masson, United States
  • Charles Moxon, England
  • William Neukomm, United States
  • Eilis Otway, England
  • Simon Richardson, New Zealand
  • Keith Robinson, England
  • Stephen Earl Rogers, England
  • Brian Sayers, England
  • Teri Anne Scoble, England
  • Mark Shields, Northern Ireland
  • Daisy Sims-Hilditch, England
  • Benjamin Sullivan, England
  • Christophe Therrien, France
  • Jean-Paul Tibbles, England
  • Shany van den Berg, South Africa
  • Daniele Vezzani, Italy
  • David von Bassewitz, Germany
  • Bo Wang, China
  • Joshua Waterhouse, England
  • Helen Wilson, Scotland
  • Val Wolstenholme Clay, England
  • Martin Yeoman, England

Further information

Neil Evans, Media Relations Manager, National Portrait Gallery, London,

Tel 020 7312 2452


National Portrait Gallery, St Martin’s Place, London, WC2H 0HE

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