Birmingham jeweller Philip Blakeman, by Robert Neil
Birmingham jeweller Philip Blakeman, by Robert Neil
 

A Birmingham artist has been selected to show in the BP Portrait Award, the world’s most prestigious portrait exhibition.

Robert Neil is one of only 55 artists who will show their work at the National Portrait Gallery in London in this year’s BP Portrait Award exhibition.

The competition, which is in its 35th year, attracts artists from all over the world. A record number of over 2,300 entries were received for this year’s award from 71 countries.

Mr Neil, aged 40, is a largely self-taught artist who paints from his studio in Worcestershire while also running a business in Birmingham’s Jewellery Quarter.

His selected painting is a portrait of Birmingham jeweller Philip Blakeman, who works nearby.

Mr Neil said: “I met Phil through mutual friends at a party, where we got talking about our shared interest in art. He has a very distinctive style and manner and I immediately thought he would make a great subject for a portrait. I asked him if he would sit for me at his studio and happily he agreed.”

Mr Neil is currently President of the Royal Birmingham Society of Artists (RBSA), one of the city’s oldest cultural institutions, which this year celebrates its bicentenary.

The RBSA is an artist-led charity with a gallery in Brook Street near St Paul’s Square. It promotes engagement with the art through exhibitions, workshops and demonstrations.

The society is celebrating the bicentenary of the first exhibition staged by the Birmingham Academy of Arts, the forerunner of the RBSA, with a special programme of exhibitions and events.

The society has received a grant of £76,400 from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) for the project Celebrating 200 years of Art, Artists and Audiences in Birmingham, and a curatorial research grant of £40,000 from the Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art.

This grant is enabling professional curators and volunteers to work together to research the history of the RBSA and reveal the stories behind paintings, sculptures and other works of art created by Birmingham’s artists.

“Being selected for the BP Portrait Award is a fantastic opportunity for me personally, but I hope it will also help to raise the profile of the RBSA and increase awareness of the great work that it does to promote and support artists in the city,” added Mr Neil.

The BP Portrait Award 2014 will be shown at the National Portrait Gallery from June 26 to September 21 2014. The exhibition will then go on a nationwide tour.