First Prize

Annabelle and Guy
by Matan Ben-Cnaan, 2015
Oil on Board
1195 x 1395mm

Matan Ben-Cnaan is an artist from the north of Israel, who studied fine arts at Haifa University. His allegorical portrait is partly inspired by the biblical story of Jephthah, an Israelite judge who vowed to God that it return for victory over the Ammonites he would sacrifice the first thing that greets him upon his return from battle. To his horror it is his daughter who rushes out in welcome but he upholds his vow and sacrifices his child. At the centre of the portrait, located close to the artist’s home in Israel’s Jezreel Valley, is his friend Guy and step-daughter Annabelle.

‘Unified by the blinding light, all the objects in the picture become one,’ says Ben-Cnaan. ‘The tension imminent in the moment of realisation of the horrible price one must pay is reflected in the composition. The rough wall and rugged gravel echo the grittiness and grief in Guy's (Jephthah's) character, whilst the fig tree, casting an ominous shadow, presages Annabelle’s fate. Her strong posture reflects her own resolve and her role, in both the biblical story and in Guy’s life, in carrying his burdens and misfortune. Being no more than a child, Annabelle attempts to process her tragic fate’.

The Judges’ said:  ‘We were struck by the engaging filmic narrative of this neo-Realist painting and the unnerving atmosphere that surrounds it. The painting’s setting and the treatment of intense light and deep shadow was much admired.’

First Prize: £30,000

At the judges’ discretion the winner will also receive a commission worth £5,000 to be agreed between the National Portrait Gallery and the artist.


Prize Winners

Annabelle and Guy

by Matan Ben-Cnaan


by Michael Gaskell


by Eleana Antonaki