A portrait of Australian actor and cancer campaigner Samuel Johnson by Jeremy Eden has won the 2022 Archibald Prize People’s Choice Award.
Eden, a Sydney-based artist, first met Johnson over video in 2021 while the actor was recovering from a near-fatal car accident. Eden then flew to Melbourne for a live sitting with Johnson, before returning to Sydney where he painted for up to six hours a day for 10 weeks to complete the portrait.
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The men bonded over their shared experience of losing close family members to cancer. Johnson, who co-founded the cancer research organization Love Your Sister with her late sister Connie before her passing in 2017, encouraged Eden to include her own story in the painting; the portrait shows Johnson holding a photograph of Eden’s mother Annette, who died of cancer in 2008.
Eden, who wins a $5,000 prize, said it was “an honour”.
“This painting has been a painting I’ve been thinking about and wanting to do for 10 years,” he said. “Sam is a storyteller at heart and it was very important to find a way to share my own narrative while still capturing Sam’s character and emotions in the portrait.
“It’s inspiring to see what Sam and the team at Love Your Sister have achieved, raising so much money for cancer research. I have followed Sam’s journey with the charity for many years and it is a privilege to be able to contribute in my own way. It is incredible to be a finalist in the Archibald Prize, but to know that the painting has resonated with so many people makes the experience even more meaningful.”
Love Your Sister has raised more than $15 million to support cancer research. In 2016, Johnson was awarded the Order of Australia Medal for his service to cancer research and the performing arts.
Johnson called Eden “exceptionally talented”.
“He is an extraordinary storyteller, has a big heart and so fully deserves this recognition. To win the Archibald Prize you have to satisfy a select group of people who really know their stuff. Winning the People’s Choice takes in the votes of everyone who sees the exhibition . The people have spoken and they loved Jeremy the most,” he said.
“Wow and phwoar. I’m madly in love with Jeremy. Such a well-deserved triumph.”
Maud Page, the Art Gallery of New South Wales’ deputy director and director of collections, said the portrait was a definite crowd favorite among visitors to the annual Archibald exhibition.
“We congratulate Jeremy Eden on capturing the hearts of our visitors with his powerful portrait of Samuel Johnson,” Page said.
Born in Sydney in 1988, Eden completed a Bachelor of Art at the Queensland College of Art in 2015. He was also nominated for the Archibald Prize in 2021, for his portrait of another actor, Firass Dirani.
The People’s Choice category was first awarded in 1988, and was voted for by more than 35,000 people, the highest number of votes ever in the category’s history.
In May, acclaimed Dhungatti artist Blak Douglas won the $100,000 Archibald Prize for his portrait of Wiradjuri artist Karla Dickens, titled Moby Dickens, making him the second Indigenous winner in 101 years, following Vincent Namatjira in 2020.
And Claus Stangl’s portrait of filmmaker Taika Waititi won the packing room prize, which is judged by gallery staff who hang up the entries each year.