Toulouse-Lautrec inspires shortlist for portrait prize

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The Independent Culture

Influenced by 19th century painters, including Henri Toulouse-Lautrec, these are the four muses that inspired to modern-day artists to portray women at various stages of their lives.

One is a portrait of a grandmother, while the others feature a friend, a flatmate and a girlfriend. All four images have been shortlisted for the BP Portait Award announced yesterday by the National Portait Gallery.

A lesser known sketch of his mother by the French post-Impressionist master, Toulouse-Lautrec, provided the inspiration for Simon Davies' Amanda Smith at Vincent Avenue. Davies, aged 39, from Worcestershire, painted his friend sitting with a cup of tea.

"I had previously painted a number of closer-in portraits of Amanda but this time I wanted the composition to have a calm and contemplative feel to it. A portrait by Toulouse-Lautrec of his mother had a big influence on this portrait," he said.

Peiyuan Jiang's portrait of a porcelain skinned flatmate was influenced by the artistry of the pre-Raphaelite painters. Jiang, who at 24 is the youngest on the shortlist, is completing an MA at the Chelsea College of Art and Design. He said he was drawn to the subject in spite of knowing very little about her, only, "the small things you glean from being housemates".

Robert O'Brien, 30, undertook his penetrating study of his grandmother near the end of her life. The painting, Hannah O'Brien, which shows her looking out of the canvas with a piercing stare was finished while she was at a care home in Middlesex and sittings were kept short due to her ill health. She died in October 2007.

"My grandmother was born in Fermoy County Cork in Ireland in 1925. She married in 1946 and had five children...

"She suffered from epilepsy for most of her life and in 1950 a week after the birth of her third child she had an epileptic seizure and fell into an open fire where the upper part of her body including her face was severely burnt.

"She was taken to hospital by donkey and cart and remained there for three years after which she returned home to look after her family," he said.

Craig Wylie's portrait of his girlfriend, was based on photographs taken in his studio in East London. Wylie, 34, said he had made two previous attempts to paint her, culminating in this final version.

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