The Archibald Prize

River Bennett (Photography River Bennett)

The Archibald Prize would have to be one of my most favourite exhibitions the Gallery of NSW in Sydney hosts. Maybe it's because the man behind it – F Archibald – journalist and founder of the Bulletin magazine who also served as a trustee of the Art Gallery -  who was passionate about art and the next generation. He was a man keen to promote the work of younger artists and writers.

I was reading that, “In 1900, he commissioned Melbourne portrait artist John Longstaff to paint a portrait of poet Henry Lawson for 50 guineas. Apparently he was so pleased with this portrait that he left money in his will for an annual portrait prize, which was first awarded in 1921. “

His primary aim was to foster portraiture, as well as support artists and perpetuate the memory of great Australians.

What a guy!

So we decided as a family that we would take an annual trip to the Archibald and get amongst its talented Australian artists.

TheWolfpack was wild for Anh Do’s portrait on linen (with dead insect found in the garden and other mixed media. Ha.) The subject was actor Jack Charles.

‘Jack is a friend who’s lived a big life,’ says Do.

‘The first time I heard of him was in a newspaper article. It introduced him as “esteemed actor, former heroin addict and jailbird, member of the stolen generation, gay man and latter-day Indigenous activist”. Jack has shared with me heartbreaking stories of a life filled with sadness and loss, never with self-pity but with humour and grace. In the end, Jack triumphed, becoming a role model and much-loved community leader.’

‘Jack’s face is full of character. I wanted the painting to capture his gravitas but also the loneliness that has been his constant companion. I mixed wet and semi-dried paint to create a texture that would evoke mountains and waterfalls, tree bark, fallen leaves, clouds and rain to encapsulate the beauty of the Australian landscape inside this beautiful man’s face.’

I was also captivated by Dee Smart portrait of the man fondly known as “The Bondi Mayor” - John Macarthur.

It has been said, “Macarthur’s world revolves around colour, his home is a riot of perfectly harmonised, vibrating hues. “

Smart chose to paint him in monotone to anchor him amongst this joyful riot.

It was an incredibly inspiring day. Challenged yet again to create and take risks and also invest in the next generation of artists in my world.

For more info head to: