500 Portraits



Publication Date: June 2015
Price: £25
ISBN:978 1 85514 570 2
Format:230 x 170mm
Illustrations: Approx. 550 full colour
Extent: 336 pages
Binding: Hardback
Category: Contemporary Art
Word Count: 18,000

This product is supplied by the National Portrait Gallery Company Limited. For more information on the Company, click here. Every purchase supports the National Portrait Gallery.

The BP Portrait Award is the world’s leading showcase for painters working in portraiture. This revised and updated edition of 500 Portraits brings together more than 500 portraits from twenty-five years of the Award. Featuring works by the world’s leading figurative artists, this book celebrates our enduring fascination with the human face.


The National Portrait Gallery’s painted portrait Award, one of Britain’s most prestigious art prizes, is the leading showcase for artists throughout the world specialising in portraiture. During the course of the past twenty-five years, portraits by more than 15,000 artists have been selected for the accompanying exhibition, which has attracted more than 4 million visitors. To celebrate this milestone, the National Portrait Gallery is publishing this new, updated edition of 500 Portraits, which features works from each of the twenty-five years since BP’s sponsorship of the exhibition began in 1990.

This highly illustrated compendium features more than 500 paintings from many of the best figurative artists active over the past quarter century, including Jonathan Yeo, Stuart Pearson Wright, Paul Emsley, Annabel Cullen and Ishbel Myerscough. Reflecting the diverse methods of contemporary portrait practice, the portraits, rendered in an array of styles from photorealism to expressionism, capture an exceptional wealth of subjects. From honest self-portraits and warm portrayals of families and children to fan portraits of celebrities and professionals in the workplace, the rich and varied selection demonstrates what inspires portrait painters. As well as the works that appeared in the exhibitions, the book includes reproductions of portraits commissioned by the Gallery from competition finalists. These include portraits of Dame Kelly Holmes, Sir Michael Caine, Sir Willard White and Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge. Each year, one artist receives the Travel Award, which provides them with the opportunity to make paintings further afield; the best of these are featured in this new edition.

This book is a key reference not only for anyone interested in the history of the Award and its impact on the status of portraiture in the UK, but also for students and professional artists alike.

Originally published in 2010, 500 Portraits has received high praise from several readers:

‘Simply the best book on this subject ever printed.’

‘My copy never gets put away and I’m already looking forward to the next volume.’

‘Comprehensive, useful, professional and very well presented.’

‘… for studying compositions it’s really handy. I wouldn’t be without it.’

‘A great selection of portraits in all styles.’