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National Portrait Gallery

Monday, June 22, 2015 - 10:15

Israeli artist wins BP Portrait Award 2015 for picture of friend and step-daughter defiant in the face of biblical inspired tragedy


On Tuesday 16 June 2015 the winner of the BP Portrait Award 2015 was announced at the National Portrait Gallery. The prestigious first prize - in the 26th year of BP’s sponsorship of the competition - was won by 35-year-old Israeli artist Matan Ben-Cnaan, for Annabelle and Guy, a striking allegorical portrait of the artist’s friend and step-daughter as if contemplating their tragic fate in the blinding sunlight of Israel’s Jezreel Valley.

The judges were impressed by the highly charged and unsettling portrait in which the artist chose to depict his sitters as though they were facing tragedy in an echo of the Biblical story of Jephthah. In this story an Israelite judge vowed on entering battle that should he win, he will sacrifice the first thing that greets him upon his home-coming, believing it to be a dog. However, on his return, it is his daughter who rushes out in welcome. Realising the tragic mistake he has made, he upholds his vow and sacrifices his child.

Matan Ben-Cnaan was presented with £30,000 and a commission, at the National Portrait Gallery Trustees’ discretion, worth £5,000. The portrait can be seen at the National Portrait Gallery from Thursday 18 June when the BP Portrait Award 2015 exhibition opens to the public.

The second prize went to Leicester-based artist Michael Gaskell, 51, for Eliza, a portrait depicting his niece Eliza, the third prize went to Spanish artist Borja Buces Renard, 36, for My Mother and My Brother on a Sunday Evening, and the BP Young Artist Award for the work of a selected entrant aged between 18 and 30 has been won by New York based artist Eleana Antonaki for J. The awards were presented by historian Simon Schama who was one of the judges.  

Incorporate a Private View of this globally established exhibition into your Summer calendar. Contact for further information.

Image Credits:  

Annabelle and Guy by Matan Ben-Cnaan © Matan Ben-Cnaan

Lerner Galleries © National Portrait Gallery, London