Drawn, hung, and quartered

The Archibald Prize for portrait painting is in the courts again. In 1943, William Dobell’s win was challenged in the basis that it was a caricature, not a portrait. Now, Craig Ruddy, the 2004 winner, is being challenged on the basis that his was a drawing, not a painting.

I have a different beef with the Archibald Prize, which is that I think there aren’t enough paintings of seriously famous people. The conditions state that the winner will be the “preferentially of some man or woman distinguished in art, letters, science or politics“. On that criteria, let’s start rejecting paintings whose subjects are obscure Australian artists. Painting your best friend is a very sweet thing to do, but it shouldn’t make its way into the Art Gallery of NSW.

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5 Responses to Drawn, hung, and quartered

  1. Steve Edney says:

    I made this same comment when viewing this year’s entry. I’m sure to the artists their fellow artists seem well known, but not for the well educated members of the general public.

  2. Having had two of my household enter portraits into the Archy over a few years I can tell you it’s bloody hard to find even vaguely distinguished people to sit.

    these days ..distinguished in.. seems to mean someone famous for having their face on telly a lot.

  3. Andrew Whitby says:

    Andrew, on what basis do you say that ‘Painting your best friend is a very sweet thing to do, but it shouldn’t make its way into the Art Gallery of NSW.’ I’m no art critic but I would have thought the value of a portrait is as much in the rendition as in the subject.

    Maybe paintings of ordinary people shouldn’t make their way into the the gallery via the Archibald, but excluding them altogether seems a bit limiting. It’s an art gallery, not People magazine.

  4. Andrew Leigh says:

    AW, you’re right to correct my loose language. I did indeed mean “paintings of ordinary people shouldn’t make their way into the the gallery via the Archibald”.

  5. I agree, to the extent that the Archibald is a public, popular event, and much of the fun is taken out of the thing if you don’t recognise the sitters and thus can’t see what the artist has made of them. But there’s still a distinction between celebrity and being distinguished… at least, I hope there is.

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