Kenny McKendry RP, ‘Summer Garden, Samuel’ & Joshua Waterhouse RP, ‘Chemist – quantum dots (detail)’


The President and Members of The Royal Society of Portrait Painters are delighted to announce the launch of the second RP Critical Writing Prize.



The Judges for the first RP Critical Writing Prize were delighted by the response.

The variety and the accomplishment of the proposals really persuaded all concerned that there is a live and continuing conversation going on and we are excited to be part of it.

By encouraging and publishing new writing we hope to expand and enliven this exchange which is central to the concerns of the Society.



Daniel Newsham:

The State and the Art: where does the modern political portrait
go from here?
Daniel’s essay examines the role of the painted portrait in political life and discourse, as well as considering what the relative paucity of modern examples might tell us about the current state of the art form.


Victoria Baena:
Eminently Contemporary
Since its 1856 inauguration, the National Portrait Gallery’s mission has been to “maintain a collection of portraits of the most eminent persons in British history.” But what is – or should be the measure of eminence?

Anna Godfrey:
An exhibition review of Kudzanai-Violet Hwami’s recent show at Victoria Miro, London, ‘A Making of Ghosts’.
Anna explores the different ways in which photography and painting can be used to relay memory, as well as the artist’s intentional disruptions to these works to communicate the fallibility, emotional distortion and inherent limitations of portraiture.

The RP Critical Writing Prize:

An award for new writing on any aspect of contemporary portrait painting.

The prize is open to all.


Applicants are invited to send a proposal or pitch for a new text.
Three of the applicants will be selected to realise the proposed text and awarded either the first prize of £500 or one of two ‘special mention’ prizes of £250.

All three texts will be published in the RP Annual Exhibition Catalogue published in May (2025). The catalogue is a well-established document of record within the sector.


  • £500 First Prize
  • £250 Two Special Mentions

One of the aims of the prize is to provide a platform for aspiring writers on the visual arts and specifically to spark intelligent conversation about the contemporary portrait.


Anthony Connolly ~ President of The Royal Society of Portrait Painters

Alexander Marr ~ Professor of Renaissance and Early Modern Art, University of Cambridge 

Laura Gascoigne ~ Art Critic

Alison Smith ~ Chief Curator NPG


The prize is open to all and is free to enter.

Submissions must be in the English language.

There is no age limit.

No formal education or qualification is required to apply for this prize.



Please submit the following:

A proposal of not more than 250 words for a new text on the contemporary painted or drawn portrait which, if successful, would be published in its realised form in the Annual RP Catalogue. The text you are pitching to write should be approximately 1000 words and not more than 1500 words. The text could be a review of a forthcoming exhibition, of an existing piece of work, or it could take a more creative or experimental form.

Please note that we are looking for texts which are enquiring, provoking, and jargon-free. We are not looking for academic dissertations or specialist scholarly papers, couched in highly technical or theoretical language, so it is not advisable to submit academic texts.


Email submissions to: [email protected]


*The 2024 Annual Exhibition of the Royal Society of Portrait Painters runs from 8th May to 18th May and may be a source of reference, although this is not a condition of eligibility.

We recommend you read the winning texts from the 2023 competition.

– scroll back up this page to find these.

You might also wish to read published works in established journals for reference.

Please note, your proposals and any realised texts may be used to promote the work of the Society and this prize – in print and on the Society’s website and various social media outlets.

Deadline: midnight 30th JUNE 2024

Successful applicants will be notified by the end of September 2024

Equal Opportunities Monitoring

We strongly encourage all writers, regardless of age, ethnicity, income, disability or gender to apply, 

If for any reason you face barriers to making this type of application, please contact: [email protected] at least two weeks in advance of the submission deadline to discuss how we might be able to make adjustments to the application requirements to facilitate your application. 

We are, however, unable to extend the deadline.


The personal data you give us in submitting to this prize will only be used to process your submission and will be shared with members of the selection panel. We will only contact you in connection to this submission. Your personal data will be kept by the RP for up to 10 years and will only be used by that organisation for its own research, evaluation, reporting and marketing analysis. It will not be passed on to anyone else. If you want to be removed from the Society’s database you can email: [email protected]

You have the right to contact the Information Commissioner’s Office if you wish to complain about how your information has been handled.


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