Louise Hearman, Barry 2016, oil on masonite
Credit: Louise Hearman, courtesy of the artist and AGNSW

A first-time entrant into the nation’s most prestigious portraiture competition, Melbourne artist Louise Hearman, has won the $100,000 Archibald Prize for her painterly portrait of (problematic) veteran entertainer Barry Humphries. 

Title Barry, Hearman’s oil on masonite portrait is the culmination of the artist’s lifelong admiration for Humphries, revealing in her artist statement that she has long admired him”since I was a young girl.” The two apparently became friends through mutual acquaintances after Hearman had hoped for years that her idol would see one of her shows:

“For years I had hoped that one day this frighteningly brilliant individual, who also paints, would see a show of mine when he was in Melbourne and like my work. As it happened we became friends through mutual acquaintances and, much to my delight, Barry agreed to sit for a portrait. I tried many ideas, but as it progressed, the painting itself showed me the way.”

As it customary, the Wynne, Sulman and Trustees’ Watercolour Prizes were also bestowed on a coterie of all-female artists – a first for Australian art’s most high-profile prize.

Five sisters from the Ken family of a remote Aboriginal community of Amata in the Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara Lands – Tjungkara Ken, Yaritji Young, Freda Brady, Maringka Tunkin and Sandra Ken – won the $50,000 Wynne Prize for landscape painting. Their incredible work, Seven sisters, tells the story of a family of sisters becoming stronger through protecting, teaching and learning from one another.

The $40,000 Sulman Prize for genre or subject painting was awarded to 28-year-old Daylesford-based Esther Stewart, the graphic artist whose work was once used by Valentino for their A/W2015 Menswear collection, and whose work Flatland dreaming interrogates gender roles through the abstraction of domestic spaces. The 2016 Trustees Watercolour Prize was also given to Leah Bullen for her abstract watercolour and gouache work, Conservatory no 2.

The Archibald, Wynne and Sulman prizes will be exhibited at the AGNSW from July 16 to October 9. You can find out more information here. 

Ken Family Collaborative, Seven sisters 2016, acrylic on linen
Credit: Ken Family Collaborative, courtesy of the artist and AGNSW
Esther Stewart, Flatland dreaming 2016, acrylic on board
Credit: Esther Stewart, courtesy of the artist and AGNSW
Leah Bullen, Conservatory no 2 2016, watercolour, gouache, monotype on paper
Credit: Leah Bullen, courtesy of the artist and AGNSW