Archibald Prize


The Archibald Prize is regarded as one of the most prestigious art awards and the most important portaiture prize in Australia.  Initially the prize money was £400 and is now a cool $75,000!

This annual prize was commenced in 1921 after bequest of J. F. Archibald, the founder of The Bulletin magazine.

It is administered by the Trustees of the Art Gallery of New South Wales and awarded for:

 “the best portrait, preferentially of some man or woman distinguished in Art, Letters, Science or Politics, painted by an artist resident in Australia during the twelve months preceding the date fixed by the Trustees for sending in the pictures.”

Portraits submitted for the Archibald Prize must be painted from life.  This means that the subject should be known to the artist and is aware of the artist’s intention to paint them.  To verify this the Artist must provide a written statement signed by the subject stating that they had at least one sitting with the artist.

The prize has, since its inception, triggered much controversy, particularly through the exact definition of a “portrait”.  Over time styles, influences and expectations ebb and flow with regard to art in general and it seems the exact definition of a “portrait” fluctuates with this also.  What is acceptable and what is not?

I give you this to consider:

Archibald Prize Finalist 2010
I wake up with Today by Artist Shane Bowden & Dean Reilly

This piece was selected as a 2010 finalist.  (Visit here for all pictures of the 2010 finalists).

How do YOU feel about this piece being selected as a finalist for this prestigious award?

For comparison, these are the winners of the award for 2010, 2011, 2012 (click the photos to find out more about the art and artists).

2010 Archibald Prize Winner
Tim Minchin by Artist Sam Leach

Archibald Prize Winner 2011
Margaret Olley by Artist Ben Quilty

Archibald Prize Winner 2012
The Histronic Wayfarer by Artist Tim Storrier

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9 thoughts on “Archibald Prize

  1. Archibald prize finalist 2010 lines, colors and light is my top pick. Intriguing, less is more. It brings a lot of things in the table. Archibald prize winner 2011 is an instant classic. The 2010 winner it doesn’t appeal to me no offense. The 2012 winner could had been good. Meaning more value before the avid of photoshop. These is just me. How about you…..thanks for asking.

    • I quite like the 2010 finalist too but I was surprised it was a finalist for this award, it is very “modern” and I wasn’t sure it was a “portrait” (to my way of thinking or definition of a portrait). I simply like it for what it is though – the simplicity, colour, lines.

      However, I did also like the 2010 winner for its clarity and its almost photographic-like representation, I’m in awe of people who can paint like this. I agree with you about the 2011 winner, it is an instant classic.

      I think I struggle a bit if a portrait doesn’t show the features of the face, just a personal thing to me. Maybe I’m too “old fashioned” or traditional 🙂

  2. My problem with ultra realistic painting is “Juan Francisco Casas”. The “blue Bic ball pen” a tough act to follow. I know all of them use a projector as tools to keep the line tight. But using Bic ball pen is a he’ll of a Job specially in a 10 foot canvas.

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