Britain's biggest prize for figurative painting, the £25,000 BP Portrait award, was won last night by a painter who heads the Prince of Wales' scheme to help young artists.
But Catherine Goodman, the director of the Prince of Wales Drawing Studio in the East End of London, insisted she had entered the National Portrait Gallery competition in a personal capacity.
She collected her winner's cheque from the actor Richard E Grant at a ceremony at the gallery, where her work goes on display tomorrow in an exhibition of 55 paintings chosen from 760 entries.
While many artists are regulars in the annual competition, Goodman had never entered before and will be unable to do so again. She has turned 41 since the qualification date and will be ineligible in future for a prize designed to encourage young artists to develop the theme of portraiture in their work.
Goodman said she had decided to enter this year only because she was particularly pleased with the winning portrait, a painting commissioned by Downside School in Somerset of its headmaster, Antony Sutch. "Essentially I'm quite a private painter and I have quite a public job. I don't go for lots of prizes," she said.
The second prize went to Zygimantas Augustinas, a Lithuanian, who won £5,000 for his portrait, Man with Utensil (Oscar), a self-portrait inspired by the hero of Gunter Grass's book Tin Drum. The third prize of £3,000 went to Mark Shields, an artist who lives and works near Belfast, for his portrait of his wife.
Although the Turner prize at Tate Britain is regarded as the more glamorous and adventurous end of British art, the BP Portrait award routinely attracts more visitors.
More than 167,000 people visited the exhibition of shortlisted works at the National Portrait Gallery last year and almost 172,000 the year before, about 100,000 more than visit the Turner prize show, a spokeswoman said. Last year's winner, Stuart Pearson Wright, used the occasion to launch a withering attack on Sir Nicholas Serota, the director of the Tate gallery, for ignoring portraiture and championing the avant-garde.
Alongside the portrait prize show will be works produced by Alan Parker, a Leicestershire police constable who won last year's BP Travel award for his proposal to document the day-to-day life of the police force. This year's travel prize goes to Daisy Richardson and Jessica Wolfson, from the Glasgow School of Art, who intend to travel together on the Trans-Siberian railway and paint portraits of the other passengers.
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