Meet Five Portrait Award Winners

Meet Five Portrait Award Winners

The Herbert Smith Freehills Portrait Award has just released its choice of winners of 2024. 

The prestigious award and its adjoining Young Artist Award are much anticipated prizes for emerging artists. Since its inception over 40 years ago, the competition offers insights into up-and-coming talent, and has attracted over 40,000 entries from more than 100 countries. In the past, accompanying exhibitions at the National Portrait Gallery have been seen by over 6 million people. This year's showcase will run from July 11th - October 27th, and is not one to miss. 

Antony Williams

First prize winner

Jacqueline with Still Life, 2020 by Antony Williams © Antony Williams. Courtesy of the National Portrait Gallery

Williams won with his portrait Jacqueline with Still Life (2020). Painted in egg tempera, the piece combines the artist’s interest in still life with a portrait subject, painted in the artist’s studio. The judges were impressed with Williams’ confidence and mastery of the egg tempera medium. They felt the composition was nuanced and surprising as the painting sustains the viewer's attention; encouraging them to return to the canvas and analyse the connections between Jacqueline and the still life elements in the background.

Isabella Watling

Second prize winner

Zizi, 2023 by Isabella Watling © Isabella Watling. Courtesy of the National Portrait Gallery

Isabella Watling's portraits are always painted from life, under natural light and to life scale, and her prize-winning portrait is no different. Zizi (2023) is a portrait of the artist’s friend, who wears a shimmering, pale pink dress by designer Simone Rocha. Zizi's piercings and tattoos contrast with the outfit's textures, and the judges were instantly struck by Watling’s contradictory homage to the Old Masters and her modern-day choice of sitter, dress, and oversized jewellery. Watling is a London-based artist who trained at the Charles H. Cecil Studios in Florence.

Catherine Chambers

Third prize winner 

Lying, 2020 by Catherine Chambers © Catherine Chambers. Courtesy of the National Portrait Gallery

A London-based artist,  Catherine Chambers has strong ties to Ethiopia (where she used to live), whose influence can be found throughout her body of work. In Lying (2020), Chambers depicts her friend at their home in Lalibela, Ethiopia. Her paintbrush exudes vulnerability, as the sitter lies on a bed, seemingly drifting off to sleep while fully clothed in jeans and a beloved Arsenal football shirt. The judges admired Chambers’ use of bold and vibrant blocks of colour. They were also moved by the tender and intimate depiction of the sitter.

Rebecca Orcutt

Young Artist Award winner

Before it’s Ruined (or an Unrealized Mean Side), 2020 by Rebecca Orcutt
© Rebecca Orcutt. Courtesy of the National Portrait Gallery

Rebecca Orcutt is an American artist, holding a bachelor’s degree in painting from Gordon College in Wenham, Massachusetts and a MFA from the New York Academy of Art. She has previously exhibited at the Portrait Award in 2015 for her work What Now. Examining the absurdity of life, her work aims to find or make meaning within it. The prize-winning self-portrait  Before it’s Ruined (or an Unrealized Mean Side) (2020) reflects "a specific moment of despair" and questions the lengths we might go to in order to shield ourselves from the pain of potential loss. The judges were taken by Orcutt’s experimental use of symbols such as the oversized coat and the ephemeral spider web. These carefully chosen symbols, alongside her tense facial expression and gritted teeth, reveal a sense of  fragility, amounting to a brave and moving artist’s self-portrait.