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Painter Charlie Schaffer scoops up controversial BP portrait award


Charlie Schaffer: Imara in her Winter Coat (Via National Portrait Gallery)

Just hours after the news broke that an octet of artists had raised serious concerns over the ongoing sponsorship of one of Britain’s best-known art prizes, Brighton-based painter Charlie Sachffer was presented with the 2019 BP Portrait Award.

In a ceremony hosted by diminutive British-Danish TV presenter Sandi Toksvig, the painter was proffered a £35,000 prize and a commission said to be worth around £7,000.

The Central Saint Martins graduate’s Titian-inspired Imara in her Winter Coat took the top spot, beating off stiff competition from just over 2,500 entrants. He joins the pantheon of previous prize-winners which includes Benjamin Sullivan, Stephen Shankland, and Victoria Russell.

Last night’s prize giving was shrouded in controversy, after a Gary Hume-spearheaded campaign calling on the National Portrait Gallery to end its three decade long relationship with the oil company was launched. Prior to being funded by BP, the annual portraiture prize was backed by cigarette manufacturer John Player & Sons.

The panel were impressed by Charlie’s “skilful depiction of a combination of several different textures including faux-fur, hair and skin,” describing the painting – the subject of which is a friend of the artist’s – as “an image that is traditional, but clearly contemporary.”


Charlie Schaffer (Via National Portrait Gallery)