Artist Fiona Lowry (L) stands in front of her portrait of Penelope Seidler (L) after winning the Archibald Prize for portraiture at the Art Gallery of NSW in Sydney on July 18, 2014. The painting was one of 884 entries including 54 finalists vying for the prestigious $75,000 award. (William West/AFP/Getty Images)
SYDNEY—Fiona Lowry has won the $75,000 (US$70,200) Archibald Prize with her portrait of Penelope Seidler.
The winner of Australia’s oldest and most prestigious art award, was announced at the Art Gallery of New South Wales, July 18, by David Gonski, chairman of ANZ.
“Fiona’s work along with all this year’s finalists show the rich diversity of Australia’s artistic talent and I encourage everyone to take the opportunity to view the works as they make their way around regional Australia,” he said.
It is third time lucky for Ms Lowry who was an Archibald finalist in 2011 and 2013. Her work is characterised by soft airbrushed subjects set in Australian bush settings.
Her portrait of Mrs Seidler is painted in soft pastels and set in bushland behind the Seidlers’ iconic house in Killara, which she co-designed with her famous husband Harry Seidler.
Harry Seidler, who passed away in 2006, was one of Australia’s greatest architects and one of the first to embrace Bauhaus principles.
Ms Lowry said she first saw Ms Seidler at a gallery opening six years ago.
“I was really struck by her beauty and her presence and asked someone who she was. I decided then that I would like to paint her,” she said in a statement.
The Sydney artist said she had particularly chosen the 1960’s Killara house as she was interested in a subject’s interaction with the landscape and wanted to paint Ms Seidler in a place that had “memory and history”.
“We spent some time in the bush at the back of the property looking at the waterfall. At one point, Penelope looked back at the house towering over us and reflected that it had been some time since she had seen it from this angle. It was that reflection that I wanted to explore with this portrait,” she said.
Penelope Seidler is a recognised architect and patron of the arts.
One of the criteria for entering the Archibald is that the subject must be a “man or woman distinguished in Art, Letters, Science or Politics”.
There were 884 entrants and 54 finalists in this year’s Archibald prize, including Vietnamese refugee Tam Do by his son Anh Do, a talented author, comedian and actor; Cao Yin, curator of Chinese art at the NSW Art Gallery, by Dapeng Liu; a double portrait of Cate Blanchett by Tim Maguire; and 2014 Australian of the Year Adam Goodes by Alan Jones.
Only two politicians were included: a portrait of NSW MP Gladys Berejiklian by Salvatore Zofrea, and Tom Uren, a WWII POW and former Labor politician, painted by Mirra Whale.
Speaking at the gallery on the announcement of the finalists on July 10, Ms Raffel said the strength of the Archibald lay not only in its diversity, but also in its ever increasing popularity.
“It is a show that emphasises that painting is alive and well,” she told Epoch Times. “We have seen it in the number of entries [representing] just one year’s worth of painting. Its great to see that level of engagement and interest.”
Some of Australia’s most famous artists have won the Archibald, including Brett Whitely, William Robinson, Gary Shead and John Olsen.
The winners of the Wynne and Sulman prizes were also announced July 18. The $32,850 Wynne Prize was won by Michael Johnson for his landscape Oceania high low. Andrew Sullivan won the $28,160 Sulman Prize for his painting T-rex (tyrant lizard king).