Portraiture has always been about much more than simply capturing the likeness of a person. It can (and should) reveal deeper qualities of the subject such as their tastes, values, virtues, and sometimes downfalls. Similar to our compulsion to view other people’s lives to better understand ourselves, portraiture can provide both glorious and difficult insights into life and human nature.

It is perhaps not surprising that one of the most important, gossiped about and well attended cultural events to take place in Australia each year is the awarding of the Archibald Prize for portraiture. First presented 95 years ago, following a bequest from the editor of influential The Bulletin journal, Jules François (JF) Archibald, he specified that the prize was to be awarded for "the best portrait, preferentially of some man or woman distinguished in Art, Letters, Science or Politics, painted by an artist resident in Australia during the twelve months preceding the date fixed by the trustees for sending in the pictures." 

The first recipient of the prize was William Beckwith McInnes for his traditional take on influential Australian architect Harold Desbrowe-Annear. McInnes went on to win the award 6 more times. Other notable winners of the prize include William Dargie (who won the prize 8 times), Nora Heysen (the first woman to win the prize), William Dobell, Ivor Hele (Australia’s longest serving war artist and 5-time winner of the Archibald), Clifton Pugh, Brett Whiteley, Wendy Sharpe, Euan MacLeod, Adam Cullen, Ben Quilty, Tim Storrier, Del Kathryn Barton (one of only two women to win the prize more than once. She and Judy Cassab won it twice), Fiona Lowry, and Nigel Milson. 

UNSW Art & Design is proud that our graduates include numerous Archibald Prize winners. In fact UNSW Art & Design graduates have won the Award for the past three consecutive years. A sample of UNSW winners include artists such as Wendy Sharpe (1996), Adam Cullen (2000), Del Karthyn Barton (2008, 2013), Fiona Lowry (2014), and Nigel Milson (2015).

This year seven of our graduates are in the final selection of those to be exhibited.  All exhibiting finalists for 2016 Archibald Prize are Abdul Abdullah (UNSW Art & Design graduate), Clara Adolphs (UNSW Art & Design graduate), Benjamin Aitken, Tony Albert, Danelle Bergstrom (UNSW Art & Design graduate), Kate Beynon, Natasha Bieniek, Chris Bond, Dean Brown, Chris Browne, Daniel Butterworth, Yvette Coppersmith, Lucy Culliton, Sinead Davies, Camillo De Luca, Marc Etherington, David Fairbairn, Betina Fauvel-Ogden, Carla Flectcher, Prudence Flint, Juan Ford, David Griggs (UNSW Art & Design graduate), Guan Wei, Tsering Hannaford, Nicholas Harding, Louise Hearman, Belynda Henry, Mark Horton, Alan Jones (UNSW Art & Design graduate), Guy Maestri, Dean Manning, Marie Mansfield, India Mark, Michael McWilliams, Lewis Miller, Nick Mourtzakis, Kirsty Neilson, William Rhodes, Melissa Ritchie, Monica Rohan, Sally Ross, Marikit Santiago (UNSW Art & Design graduate), Nick Stathopoulos, Imants Tillers (Honorary Doctor of Letters from UNSW (Art & Design)), Rosemary Valadon, Natasha Walsh, Peter Wegner, Mirra Whale, Marcus Wills, Heidi Yardley, and Zoe Young.

The finalists exhibition runs 16 July - 9 October at the Art Gallery of New South Wales.