Detail from Letter To My Mom by David Jon Kassan. Copyright David Jon Kassan.
A homeless man, a mother and a fabulous fashionista in her 70s. These are the subjects of the three incredible paintings shortlisted for this year’s BP Portrait Award.
But what is it about these works of art that have captured the imagination of the competition’s judges? And which painter will be walking away with the £30,000 first prize?
Man With a Plaid Blanket © Thomas Ganter
Thomas Ganter: Everyone Deserves Respect
German artist, Thomas Ganter, decided to paint his subject, a homeless man called Karel, in a saintly pose for his shortlisted entry.
Speaking to The Guardian newspaper, he described his reasons for doing this, saying: “By portraying a homeless man in a manner reserved for nobles or saints, I tried to emphasize that everyone deserves respect and care.
“Human dignity shouldn’t be relative, or dependent on socioeconomic status.”
The artist says he’d been to an art gallery when he spotted Karel on his way home.
He was immediately struck by how similar the man’s clothing and pose resembled those in the paintings he’d just seen.
It was then that he made the decision to paint him, asking Karel to sit for five sessions in his studio in order to produce the final piece, called Man With a Plaid Blanket.
As with many artists, it’s interesting to see how Thomas Ganter’s career took many different turns before ending up being shortlisted for one of the world’s most prestigious portrait awards.
Born in 1974, he studied at the University of Applied Sciences in Wiesbaden, Germany, before taking a diploma in trailer animation and character expressions and setting up his own animation and production company, Kawom, in 2001.
In 2004, he took up a lecturing position in nude and elementary drawing at the University of Applied Sciences and continued to work on as series of striking portraits which perfectly capture the mood and personality of his subjects.
David Jon Kassan: A Moving Dedication To Mom
We all have different relationships with our parents, but Brooklyn-based artist, David Jon Kassan, was in no doubt about which feelings he wanted to express in his portrait of her.
At first, David’s mother had no desire to be the subject of one of his paintings, but after the artist offered to give her a portrait of her grandson, she eventually agreed.
According to his website, David doesn’t simply wish to replicate what he sees before his eyes when painting a subject.
Letter To My Mom © David Jon KassanInstead, he seeks to “capture the essence of those he paints, imbuing them with their own voice.”
When painting his own mom, he wanted to capture the feelings of love he has towards her.
He emphasized this by expressing those feelings in the Hebrew text which features above her in the painting.
Speaking to The Guardian newspaper, he said that: “By painting her, it is my way of spending time with her, contemplating our relationship and time together, my earliest memories.”
Jean Woods © Richard Twose
Jean Woods: a Fabulous Fashionista
Jean Woods, the subject of the third shortlisted painting, was the subject of Fabulous Fashionistas – a show broadcast by Channel 4 in the UK featuring a range of women with an average age of 80 and a shared love of fashion, make-up and a dedication to redefining preconceptions about old age.
Richard Twose, the Bath-based artist who painted her, originally noticed her working in a shop and was struck by her looks and, as he says, her “contemporary, edgy style.”After seeing her on TV, he was doubly impressed by her attitude towards life – especially the way she’d embraced life with both hands after sadly losing her husband after 56 years of marriage.
By sheer good luck, Jean also happened to be the grandmother of one of his daughter’s friends, so Richard wasted no time in asking her to sit for him. Happily, she agreed.
Speaking to his local paper, The Bath Chronicle, Richard said: “Sometimes, as Jean was talking, especially about her much-missed late husband, she reminded me of Rembrandt’s Portrait of Margaretha de Geer. Jean has a similar intensity and honesty in her gaze.
“I wanted to capture that sense of someone who has learnt to be almost fearless, looking forward to life still but with a great richness of experience behind her.”This year, the Portrait Award celebrates its 35th consecutive year at the National Portrait Gallery in London and 25 years’ of sponsorship by BP. This year, 2,337 portrait paintings were entered by artists from 71 countries, with 55 of these entries being chosen to go on display for the final exhibition.
With this in mind, Thomas Ganter, David Jon Kassan and Richard Twose have done incredibly well to make it down to the final three shortlisted artists.
The winner will be announced tonight, 24th June 2014, with the winner receiving £30,000 in cash plus a commission worth £5,000. The artist who wins the second prize will take home £10,000, while the artist in third place will receive £8,000.
Who do you think will win? And, are you tempted to enter next year’s competition?