Portrait Artist of the Year, Sky Arts 1 - TV review


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Portrait Artist of the Year, now on a second series, has also retained its passion for the craft – portrait painting, in this case. The opening episode on Sky Arts 1 included a lively disagreement between presenters Joan Bakewell and Frank Skinner and one of the three judges Tai Shan Schierenberg, over the importance of capturing a likeness. "We've been excited today by the inventiveness," scolded Schierenberg. "If you want a likeness, go to Leicester Square."

The art was even more thrilling than the backchat, however. This year's entrants secured their places by submitting 21 hugely varied self-portraits. Raoof Haghighi, originally from Iran, had posed like an 18th-century nobleman and David Alderslade from Wiltshire referenced 19th-century Japanese prints in water colour. The art history references made us feel brainy, but it was that first technical challenge that revealed the unexpected magic of painting on television.

Working alongside each other and in front of an audience, the artists had four hours to capture one of three celebrity sitters – footballer Sol Campbell, broadcaster John Humphrys and Maisie Williams from Game of Thrones. Watching paint dry has never been so interesting.