Shirley Hannan winner not to everyone's liking

Tricia Migdoll's entry in the Shirley Hannan National Portrait Award, Jim, is proving a favourite among readers of the BDN.
Tricia Migdoll's entry in the Shirley Hannan National Portrait Award, Jim, is proving a favourite among readers of the BDN.

IT SEEMS not everyone agrees with the judge’s decision in the Shirley Hannan National Portrait Award.

The third-richest art prize in Australia – worth $50,000 to the artist – went to one of Australia's leading contemporary artists Shaun Gladwell for his diptych of Meyne Wyatt/Black Digger.

Judge Sarah Engledow, historian at the National Portrait Gallery, said the portrait was “the one that sustained my interest, aesthetically and sympathetically” in a rich field of finalists.

Shaun Gladwell's winning entry, Merne Wyatt/Black Digger.

Shaun Gladwell's winning entry, Merne Wyatt/Black Digger.

We asked readers whether they agreed via a street poll and online survey.

On the street, none of the four readers we asked picked Gladwell’s entry as their favourite.

Todd Helton of Bermagui said it was “quintessential Australian”, but “a bit 2D when you look at the others".

Meanwhile, that sentiment was also borne out in an online poll, with only 12.5 per cent of respondents agreeing with the judge.

Comments made by survey respondents overwhelmingly favoured Tricia Migdoll’s portrait, Jim, instead.

“I prefer emotional impact married so well with skill over political,” wrote one.

“This painting is obviously technically highly competent,” said another.

“The sitter has been skilfully caught in an arresting pose such that something vital in his inner self & personality is conveyed to the viewer.

“The painter has caught the attention of the viewer, involved him or her and indeed obliged the viewer to ponder on what is in the mind of the sitter.”

One respondent even went so far as to say “a half profile is a cop-out in a portrait competition. Many were better, especially Jim by Tricia Migdoll.”

Another agreed: “Being side on there’s no full face expression. It was on the bottom of my list.”

A comment left on the BDN website also expressed disappointment in the judge’s decision.

Patricia Sinclair said Jim was “by far and away the best in the field”.

“Her portrait showed character!

“The composition was very compelling due to the unsaid meaning in the work.

“The most outstanding part of Ms Migdoll's painting is it's excellence in craft.

“Her painting skills obviously show not only an immense talent, but a well-honed education in the art of painting itself!

“How can we be satisfied with mediocre work when artists who take the time to become excellent are passed over.

“The judge’s preferences for the winning piece may say more about the judge than anything else. She has raised the bar to 'poor'.

“How sad for painting and the people who aspire to be better painters!”

So what do you think?

Have your say by commenting below, or emailing

A people’s choice award is also open until the end of the month.

Visit the Bega Valley Regional Gallery to enter your vote.