The winner of this year’s Archibald Prize was announced early today. Melbourne-based artist Louise Hearman won with Barry – a hyper-real portrayal of entertainer and satirist Barry Humphries. In Hearman’s oil on Masonite portrait, Humphries smiles with an absorbing softness, his face stripped bare of his alter ego Dame Edna Everage’s thick make up, rhinestone-bedazzled spectacles and blue-rinse wig.
Sydney’s most prestigious portrait prize asks artists from Australia and Australasia to craft a portrait “preferentially of some man or woman distinguished in art, letters, science or politics”. 2016 marks the sixth time Humphries has sat for an Archibald portrait – John Brack’s rendering of Dame Edna won the prize in 1969.
“For years I hoped that one day this frighteningly brilliant individual, who also paints, would see a show of mine when he was in Melbourne and like my work,” said Hearman. “As it happened we became friends through mutual acquaintances and, much to my delight, Barry agreed to sit for a portrait. I tried many ideas, but as it progressed, the painting itself showed me the way.”
Female artists were strongly represented at the Art Gallery of NSW’s esteemed painting prizes this year – approximately half of the Archibald finalists were women. Five sisters from the Ken family – Tjungkara Ken, Yaritji Young, Freda Brady, Maringka Tunkin and Sandra Ken – who live in the remote Aboriginal community of Amata in the Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara Lands, won the Wynne Prize with their collaborative painting about a family protecting each other. Esther Stewart won the subject or mural-based Sulman Prize for her painting Flatland Dreaming.
Finalists of the prize are on view at AGNSW from July 16 until October 9.