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The 2001 Archibald Winner
Nicholas Harding
John Bell as King Lear

Nicholas Harding has won the 2001 Archibald Prize for his painting John Bell as King Lear. The Archibald Prize is now in its 80th year since inception and this years winner receives a prize of $35,000.

The Trustees would also like to make special mention of the work Jackie and Kerryn by Jenny Sages.

Harding is a fan of the Bell Shakespeare Company and has seen all their productions since the company's debut. But it was their production of King Lear starring John Bell and directed by Barrie Kosky, which really fired Harding's imagination. "I sat in the front row," he says. "It was very dramatic and exciting, and John's performance was riveting."

Harding's initial impulse was to paint Bell in character though decided to paint him as himself first and so become better acquainted with his physical form. This he did and the resulting portrait was hung in last year's Archibald.

Now painting Bell in character, Harding used stage lighting to highlight the form and sharp contrasts of his head. "To have him in character has allowed me to capture a more intense expression on his face. The wonderful red coat he wore as Lear has also worked well for the portrait."

Born in London in 1956, Harding came to Australia in 1965. He completed a Bachelor of Arts in 1975, travelled through Europe then returned to Australia to a career as an animator, illustrator and painter. He has exhibited since 1981 with regular solo exhibitions at Rex Irwin Gallery in Sydney and a solo exhibition at Theo Waddington Fine Art in London in 1997. He has been hung in the Wynne Prize three times, the Dobell Prize for Drawing five times and in the Archibald on seven previous occasions. His portrait of Margaret Olley was highly commended in the 1998 Archibald. His work is held in various public and private collections nationally.

The Archibald Prize was established through the bequest of Jules Francois Archibald in 1921. It aims to encourage portraiture by supporting artists and celebrating the memory of great Australians.

Judged by the Trustees of the Art Gallery of New South Wales, previous winners include artists such as William Dobell (1943) and Brett Whiteley (1976). Famous subjects of Archibald winners include 'Banjo' Paterson, Margaret Olley and Paul Keating.

The controversial nature of the Archibald has always sparked lively debate and continues to stimulate and sustain public interest in Australian portraiture

The Archibald Prize is generously supported by the Colonial Foundation Charitable Trust.
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Media Information and Interviews:Jan Batten
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