Nigel Milsom's portrait of barrister Charles Waterstreet just won the Archibald Prize

Judo house pt 6 (the white bird) by Nigel Milsom. Photo: © AGNSW, Mim Sterling.

Artist Nigel Milsom won the $100,000 Archibald Prize for his painting of Charles Waterstreet.

The colourful barrister, who is also a Sunday newspaper columnist and author, is the inspiration for and co-creator of the ABC TV series Rake.

There are 47 finalists in the 2015 exhibition “of some man or woman distinguished in art, letters, science or politics”, chosen from among 832 entries.

The prize money for the Archibald portrait competition, Australia’s most popular art exhibition, increased by $25,000 this year. The winner is chosen by the Gallery’s trustees, including president Guido Belgiorno-Nettis and Gretel Packer.

Nigel Milsom’s work is the largest painting in the exhibition. He has a 40-year association with Waterstreet, which began in Albury in 1975, when Milsom was born around the corner from the Waterstreet Hotel – owned and managed by the barrister’s parents. Milsom’s father used to sell fish to the pub.

Several years ago, Waterstreet represented Milsom in court.

“My relationship with Charlie obviously took on more significance at that time,” Milsom said. “Charlie restored my faith in the legal system. He is a very complex person… he isn’t just a law man. He’s a writer, a social environmentalist and does things in film, photography and theatre too.”

The artist said Waterstreet was “a very complex person” and his portrait was “an attempt to depict him as a giant: part-man part-mythical creature, with hands that appear otherworldly”.

Milsom won the 2012 Sulman Prize and the 2013 Doug Moran National Portrait Prize and also features in the Archibald Prize as a sitter for friend and fellow artist Matthew Kentmann.

The $50,000 Wynne Prize for landscapes or figurative sculpture went to Melbourne artist Natasha Bieniek for Biophilia, the smallest painting in the exhibition, and the $40,000 Sulman Prize for best subject or genre painting or mural project was awarded to Sydney artist Jason Phu, who also has a work in the Archibald, for “I was at yum cha when in rolled the three severed heads of Buddha: Fear, Malice and Death”.

Bruno Jean Grasswill’s portrait of actor Michael Caton scored him $1000 as the winner of the Packing Room Prize, chosen by the gallery’s back room packing team.

The winner of the John and Elizabeth Newham Pring Memorial Prize is Sydney artist Viola Dominello for her landscape On the river.

Max Miller won the Trustees’ Watercolour Prize with ‘The world of dew is only the only the world of dew and yet… oh… and yet…’

The Archibald Wynne and Sulman Prizes officially open tomorrow, Saturday, July 18 at the Art Gallery of NSW and continues until September 27.

NOW READ: How One Of Australia’s Most Successful Working Artists Wound Up In Prison For Armed Robbery

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