Lynn Savery has taken out this year’s Doug Moran National Portrait Prize, Australia’s richest art prize worth $150,000. A self-taught painter and full-time carer, this is the first major prize for the 58-year-old artist from Melbourne. Her winning self-portrait, selected from a shortlist of 30 finalists, explores socially constructed gender norms.

Lynn Savery’s winning self portrait. Photo supplied 

Accepting the prize at Paddington’s Juniper Hall this morning, Savery described herself as “really taken aback”, stating that she had no expectation of her portrait even making the finals. In her artist statement, Savery wrote that she posed with a ‘manspread’ in order to “illustrate how body posture contributes to gender stereotypical impressions.” This is her first portrait and first oil painting.

Artist Louise Hearman, Ron Radford AM and Co-Founder and Director of the Moran Arts Foundation, Greta Moran, had the difficult task of judging 1050 entries. Among the finalists were heavyweights Peter Churcher, Vincent Fantauzzo, Jan Nelson, Nick Stathopoulos and Peter Smeeth.

“The judges were in agreement, we admired the meticulous attention to detail and beautiful placement of the figure and her dog in the picture composition,” said Radford. “The portrait had a real impact in its direct gaze to the viewer as only a good self-portrait can achieve. Her colouration was finely calculated, overall, a very engaging portrait.”

“A painting for me, when I think it is really good, is an object in space that not only makes me think, but also entices me to keep looking at it,” Hearman added. “Each time I look at it, I see more, I think more and the more it makes me do that, the more it is, in my mind, a good painting. The winning painting is exactly that, an object that we naturally wanted to keep looking at. Each time I look I see fascinating things that make me think. The maker of this painting has an obsessive eye for detail and is also able to make the entire painting sing as a whole. It has emotion, beauty and love of life’s visual stories. The painting is full of invention, sophisticated colour and defiant SPLAT in your face appeal.”

Unlike the $100,000 Archibald Prize, which calls for portraits of those distinguished in art, letters, science or politics, the Doug Moran National Portrait Prize asks artists to “interpret the look and personality of a chosen sitter, either unknown or well-known”.

The Doug Moran National Portrait Prize celebrates its 30th anniversary this year with an exhibition of past winners, including works by Ben Quilty, Vincent Fantauzzo, Nigel Milsom, Tom Storrier and Prudence Flint.


The Doug Moran National Portrait Prize Exhibition is at Juniper Hall, Paddington, November 2 – December 16

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Limelight, Australia's Classical Music and Arts Magazine