A slightly surreal portrait of an artist’s elderly mother drinking a cup of tea has won the BP Portrait Award.
Miriam Escofet said she wanted An Angel at My Table to show “the universal mother”. Judges praised its “constraint and intimacy”.
Her mother Alma Escofet is shown taking tea, but a closer look reveals some objects on the table seem to be moving.
The artist said winning was “completely amazing and slightly surreal”, adding: “I’m just coming back to earth.”
She was awarded £35,000 and a gallery commission worth £7,000 at the National Portrait Gallery.
Escofet, who was born in Barcelona and lives in London, had been selected for the BP Portrait award exhibition four times previously.
Her mother accompanied her to the awards ceremony in central London on Monday night.
“It was quite overwhelming for her, in the nicest possible way,” said Escofet. “She’s absolutely thrilled for me.
“People reacted so wonderfully to the portrait. I had people saying it really moved them and they could identify their own mother in the picture.
“I wanted it to show the person who’s been there from the year dot, who’s always there for you and has your back. My mother is incredibly calm and down-to-earth, and it’s about that maternal energy.”
She added that her mother “loves drinking tea” and is “constantly at the kitchen table”.
“It’s her spiritual realm,” added Escofet, who explained that her mother drinks either black tea with lemon, or herbal tea – meaning the milk jug in the portrait is a touch of artistic licence – and has a “fantastic collection of tea cups”.
Rosie Millard, one of the judges, said: “The crisp tablecloth and china are rendered so beautifully – and then you see that one of the plates and a winged sculpture on the table appear to be moving which adds a surreal quality to the portrait.
“It is also a very sensitive depiction of an elderly sitter.”
Escofet said of the movement in the image: “It came back to the idea of making the maternal figure, and my mother in particular, the still point in the composition. All the perspective in the objects is leading to the central point, which is her.
“I wanted to emphasise that sense of stillness and her being the centre of the universe.”
The winning portrait, painted in oils, was chosen from 2,667 entries from 88 countries, which were all judged anonymously.
American artist Felicia Forte won the £12,000 second prize for Time Traveller, Matthew Napping, which shows her boyfriend sleeping in his bed on a hot day in Detroit.
Forte said she was inspired by the contrasts, with “cool light from the window meeting intense red light from the bedside lamp and the loneliness of the sleeper amidst the festive colours”.
The third prize of £10,000 went to Chinese artist Zhu Tongyao for Simone, which depicts his neighbours’ child. It was painted while Tongyao was studying in Florence.
Ania Hobson, 28, who is based in Suffolk, won the BP Young Artist Award – and a £9,000 prize – for A Portrait of Two Female Painters, which shows her and her sister-in-law Stevie Dix.
Dr Nicholas Cullinan, chair of the judges and director of the National Portrait Gallery said it had been a year of “outstanding entries”, representing “the very best of contemporary portrait painting”.
The BP Portrait Award 2018 exhibition is at the National Portrait Gallery from 14 June to 23 September and admission is free.