Ten-time finalist wins Australian portrait prize for women

New Zealand-born, Sydney-based artist Marie Mansfield has won this year’s $30,000 Portia Geach Memorial Award.

Mansfield, a 10-time finalist in the award – Australia’s premier prize for female portraitists – has won for Tilly, a painting of fellow Sydney artist Matilda Michell. Michell was also a finalist, with her painting of The Age and Sydney Morning Herald columnist and crossword creator David Astle.

Marie Mansfield’s painting Tilly, of artist Matilda Michell, is the winner of the 2021 Portia Geach Memorial Award.Credit:S.H. Ervin Gallery

“It’s unbelievable and I was absolutely thrilled after being 10 times a finalist… It is a really strong field of competing artists and I feel very fortunate to have won,” Mansfield said. “I think we are sick of being cooped up for so long in lockdown, so I would strongly recommend people get out and see all the paintings, they are superb.”

Portraits of two other Herald and The Age writers, including myself and arts writer Chloe Wolifson, also appear as part of the exhibition, which opens Thursday at the S.H. Ervin Gallery in Sydney.

Other finalist subjects include Kylie Moore-Gilbert, the Melbourne academic who spent two years in jail in Iran (painted by Zoe Young), artist Anne Ferguson (painted by her daughter Jo Bertini) and poet Chris Wallace-Crabbe (painted by his partner Kristin Headlam). Paintings of ABC chair Ita Buttrose and member for Warringah Zali Steggall were also selected among the award’s 57 finalists.

Mansfield has also been a finalist multiple times in the Doug Moran National Portrait Prize and the 2016 Archibald Prize, with a portrait of fellow Christchurch artist Euan Macleod.

David Astle as painted by Matilda Michell, who is a finalist in the 2021 Portia Geach Memorial Award and the subject of the winning entry.

This is the 60th year of the portrait prize, which was established by Florence Kate Geach in memory of her sister Portia, an artist, feminist and the founder of the NSW Housewives Association, which aimed to educate women.

Art critic John McDonald commended the work of the finalists, saying, “This year the standard is higher, presumably because artists have been able to put more time and thought into their work during lockdown. When it comes to the visual arts, the pandemic has had its benefits.”

Zoe Young’s portrait of Kylie Moore-Gilbert, the Melbourne academic who spent two years in jail in Iran. Credit:S.H. Ervin

The show will continue at the National Trust’s Observatory Hill gallery until December 19.

A number of the 2021 finalists were also selected with other works in this year’s Archibald Prize and Salon de Refuses exhibitions, both of which were only open for three weeks before closure due to the coronavirus lockdown.

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