Portrait Artist of the Year: The Exhibition

Hi everyone,

I recently visited Compton Verney gallery in Warwickshire. In my previous article (which you can find here), I wrote about the fantastic paintings in the British Portraits rooms and in particular what a wonderful document of fashion and embroidery of their time they are. While it was a treat to enjoy these paintings, my main reason for visiting was to see the Portrait Artist of the Year exhibition.

This is the exhibition of the works made during the many series of the tv show Sky Portrait Artist of the Year. While this is a show made by Sky, I think Sky Arts shows are free to watch for everyone. Here’s a link to the website and to the Freeview page for Sky Arts.

If you’ve not seen it, the premise of the programme is that professional and amateur artists compete in heats painting celebrities’ portraits. The judges, Tai Shan Schierenberg, Kathleen Soriano and Kate Bryan, select a winner from each heat to go through to the finals.

During each show the artists have four hours to complete their portrait painting before their work is judged alongside a self-portrait that they have also submitted.

The exhibition at Compton Verney, curated by Kathleen Soriano brings together over 120 art works from the series selected from more than a 1000 artists who have taken part over the years.

I took a few photos of my favourites to share with you…


The exhibition begins with a gallery of winners over the years including Duncan Shoosmith, Christian Hook and Curtis Holder. In this photo you can see Christian Hook’s painting of Amir Khan from 2015. Please do visit his website to see more of his fabulous work.

Here is a close up detail of a drawing by Curtis Holder. This was his ‘commission piece’ from the 2020 series which he won. You might recognise the sitter as the dancer Carlos Acosta.

It’s coloured pencil on paper and measures 150cm x 120cm.

See more of Curtis’ work on his website here.

Moving into the next room, the winners continue with a collection of work by 2017 winner Gareth Reid. The exhibition included a mix of his painting (the portrait of Graham Norton, pictured here), and drawing (his self portrait also shown above). I just love his work! Here’s a link to his website if you’d like to see more.

The exhibition continues in the next gallery with a room filled with the self portraits.

This exhibition filled me with not only a renewed love of portrait painting, but also an appreciation of how diverse work can be within a single genre. It’s easy to think that there are SO many artists doing SO much amazing work, and that can be disheartening to a certain degree, but here the overarching feeling that I left with was that everyone ought to do this, and to do it in their own way.

Amelie came with me. We both loved the detail and story telling in this painting by Thomas MacGregor. You might recognise him, and his painting style, as he also reached the final in the sister tv show, Sky Landscape Artist of the Year, 2022. Here’s a link to his website. 

I hope you enjoyed these photos, they really are just a snapshot of the exhibition and there is so much more to enjoy there. If you are nearby I thoroughly recommend visiting. The exhibition continues until early June 2022. All of the information can be found on the Compton Verney website.

Bye for now,

Laura x

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