The people have spoken and cast their vote for Anne Middleton’s portrait of Australian actor Guy Pearce, which has been named the 2018 Archibald Prize ANZ People’s Choice award. A hyper realistic, large-scale portrait simply titled Guy, it wins Middleton a $3500 cash prize.

Anne Middleton, Guy. Oil on linen, 192 x 192cm © the artist. Photo: AGNSW, Jenni Carter

“The entire process of painting this portrait was both daunting and exciting,” Middleton said. “Guy and I talked about the qualities of tin-type photography and discussed how we could capture a similar sensation of peering into his soul. The scale of the painting was liberating, and I could paint loosely and expressively despite the level of detail.”

Middleton’s first time working on a large-scale portrait, it took three sittings and ten weeks of additional work to capture the actor’s likeness. The artist drew on her knowledge of 17th and 18th-century European oil painting techniques to build luminosity and form.

Anne Middleton and Guy Pearce in the studio. Image courtesy of the artist

“I painted Guy in the natural light of my studio,” said Middleton. “The light rakes across his face, casting one side of his face into deep shadow. Obscure and mysterious, it speaks of hidden and difficult times. The other side is brilliantly lit, highlighting the delicacy, transparency and vulnerability of his skin, and the subtle and tender quality of his eyes and mouth. It is an uncompromising light, honest and unflinching.”

“This extreme tonality enabled me to explore the chameleon nature of Guy Pearce – a profound personal awareness of the light and dark that makes him both an extraordinary actor and a kind, funny and unassuming bloke,” said Middleton.

A first time Archibald entrant, Middleton is the daughter of landscape painter Max Middleton. Pearce sent his congratulations to the artist from Amsterdam, expressing his delight at her win.

Yvette Coppersmith’s Self-Portrait, after George Lambert won the Archibald Prize in May.


The Archibald Prize is at the Art Gallery of New South Wales until September 9

Limelight, Australia's Classical Music and Arts Magazine