Breastfeeding portrait wins portrait award

Picture issued by the National Portrait Gallery of Breech! by Grimsby-born artist Benjamin Sullivan which is has won this year's BP Portrait Award.

Picture issued by the National Portrait Gallery of Breech! by Grimsby-born artist Benjamin Sullivan which is has won this year's BP Portrait Award.

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A portrait of a woman breastfeeding her eight-month-old baby has won this year’s BP Portrait Award.

Grimsby-born artist Benjamin Sullivan, 40, was awarded first prize for Breech!, depicting his wife Virginia nursing their young daughter, Edith.

The judges said they were struck by the tenderness and intimacy of Sullivan’s composition, evoking Madonna and Child paintings through the ages and the depth of the maternal bond.

Broadcaster Kirsty Wark, who helped judge the award, said: “The woman is tired. She is in love. Her life has changed forever. We know her.”

The oil painting was made over four to five weeks in the Suffolk-based artist’s studio, “when Edith’s co-operation was forthcoming”, the Gallery said.

It depicts “a sense of calm” which descended after the anxious time the parents faced during Edith’s birth.

The winner, who receives £30,000 and a National Portrait Gallery commission, was announced by presenter Mariella Frostrup at a ceremony at the National Portrait Gallery, London.

Sullivan has been selected a record 13 times for the National Portrait Gallery exhibition, which runs alongside the award – and was awarded third prize for his portrait of the poet Hugo Williams in 2016.

Dr Nicholas Cullinan, chair of the judges and director of the Gallery, said: “The competition, recognised as the most prestigious in the field of portrait painting in the world, continues to attract the best practitioners of the genre.

“This year is no exception, and I hope visitors will enjoy the diverse range of styles and sitters in the exhibition.”

The winning portrait was selected from 2,580 entries from 87 countries.

Second prize, of £10,000, went to French painter and illustrator Thomas Ehretsmann, for Double Portrait, depicting his pregnant wife Caroline.

Third prize went to Antony Williams for Emma, his portrait of model turned friend Emma Bruce, crossing her arms over her naked chest.

The BP Young Artist Award was won by 26-year-old Henry Christian-Slane for a portrait of his partner, while the Travel Award went to Casper White for his proposal to create works about music fans in clubs and concert venues in Berlin and Mallorca.

Sullivan’s portrait can be seen at the National Portrait Gallery from Thursday when the free BP Portrait Award 2017 exhibition opens to the public.

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