Five senior British artists have been put on the shortlist for the pounds 30,000 Jerwood Painting Prize, the richest prize in art.
The award, set up last year by the Jerwood Foundation, a charitable educational trust, in a direct challenge to the existing Turner Prize, aims to demonstrate excellence in modern British painting.
The five are: Stephen Buckley, 51; Patrick Caulfield, 59; Maggi Hambling, 50; Karl Weschke, 70; and Callum Innes, 33.
That the Jerwood is out to cock a snook at the Turner Prize and its association with the Tate Gallery, as well as the Turner's aim of rewarding conceptual and installation art at the expense of painting, was made clear in a strongly worded statement from theFoundation yesterday.
The statement asked: "Is painting being marginalised, pushed aside to allow in the new, forcing it underground? And hasn't this already happened?"
Providing its own answers, it went on: "Recent exhibitions at the Tate and the Serpentine galleries have barely a painting in sight, the glorification of the technologic, the glib, the ironic; postmodernism pushed to its logical conclusion.
"Our shortlisted artists cannot, thankfully, be emblazoned 'Young British' but what they produce is just as much of the here-and-now as pickled sheep and concrete houses."
The last remark was clearly a jibe at the work of the winner of the Turner Prize, Rachel Whiteread, and the installation artist Damien Hirst, both of whose work covers a range of figurative and abstract painting.
The winner of the Jerwood Painting Prize will be announced at the Royal Academy in September, and paintings by the shortlisted artists will go on show at the Royal Scottish Academy and the Royal Academy during the summer, shortly before the exhibition of artists shortlisted for the Turner Prize goes on show at the Tate.
One of the judges for the Jerwood Prize is Judith Collins, assistant keeper of the modern collection at the Tate. She was also a judge in the first year of the new prize last year. She commented: "It was a great learning experience for me. I saw evidence of painters' works that hadn't crossed my desk before at the Tate."