News Column

Thomas Ganter wins BP portrait prize with painting of homeless German man

June 25, 2014

Mark Brown (Guardian arts correspondent),

A large, formally posed painting of a homeless German man called Karel who gets by from cleaning car windscreens has won the BP portrait prize.

Thomas Ganter was named winner of one of the most prestigious and popular art prizes, now in its 25th year, for his portrait Man with a Plaid Blanket.

Ganter, 40, was due to pick up his 30,000 winnings at the National Portrait Gallery on Tuesday night and the prize exhibition opens to the public on Thursday.

He has previously explained how it was a chance sighting outside Frankfurt'sStÄdel museum that led to the portrait, that he had spent a rainy afternoon looking at the gallery's fine collection of Old Masters. "After being in a museum, I saw a homeless man and was stunned by a similarity: the clothes, the pose and other details resembled what I just saw in various paintings. However, this time I was looking at a homeless person wrapped in a blanket and not at the painting of a saint or a noble in their elaborate garment."

Ganter said by portraying Karel in a manner normally reserved for nobles, he "tried to emphasise that everyone deserves respect and care".

The judges said they had been "struck by the intensity of the sitter's gaze and how every texture and surface was rendered in intricate detail".

Second prize went to Richard Twose for his portrait of Jean Woods, who featured in the Channel 4 documentary Fabulous Fashionistas; and third went to American artist David Jon Kassan for a portrait of his mother.

This year there were 2,377 entries from 71 countries. The best will be displayed at the popular portrait prize exhibition (285,514 people visited in 2013) until 21 September. After that it will tour Sunderland Museum and Winter Gardens and the Scottish National Portrait Gallery.

It is the 25th year of BP's support for the prize, which is a bone of contention with 25 protesters who made a stand when they each had oil poured over their faces at different locations in the gallery.

The Guardian has published a letter signed by more than 200 arts practitioners and arts workers including poet Ruth Padel and playwright Caryl Churchill objecting to the sponsorship.

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Source: Guardian Web

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