History of the KILGOUR PRIZE


The KILGOUR PRIZEan annual art prize for figurative and portrait painting administered annually by Newcastle Art Gallery. It awards $50,000 for the most outstanding work of art as determined by a panel of three judges. Each year the judging panel is comprised of Newcastle Art Gallery's Director and two invited external judges. A further $5,000 is awarded through the People's Choice, with the winner chosen by visitors voting at the Gallery.

In 1987 artist Jack Noel Kilgour bequeathed funds for the creation of a major figurative and portrait art competition to be run in perpetuity at the Gallery. As per the terms of Kilgour's will the inaugural KILGOUR PRIZE was held in 2006. Originally held every two years and awarding $30,000, the prize has now become annual and awards $50,000. The KILGOUR PRIZE is one of Australia's major art prizes.

The inaugural recipient of the KILGOUR PRIZE 2006 was Sydney-based artist Nicholas Harding with his work Beach Life. Later winners include Dallas Bray who won consecutively in 2008 and 2010. The winner of the KILGOUR PRIZE 2016 was Peter Gardiner with the work Origin / Landscape 2016.


2021: Lori Pensini
Family 2021
oil on china
78.0 x 85.0cm

Artist Statement:
These portraits are a continuum for myself and my art practice exploring the Indigenous lineage to my ancestry. They are painted on family heirloom fine bone china English plates and are a tribute to the inter-racial relationships of my colonial fore-bearers and the First People’s of the south west of Western Australia. Each plate is unique to itself, honouring individual endeavours and fortitude. Collectively they embody the sense of ‘family’, of intimate bonds forged and the endurance of fervent relationships that defied racial vilification of the times. The deliberation of painting on fine bone china English plates represents the fragility of our bonds and cultural identity and delicately betrays the ruinous heavy hand of European colonisation both towards Indigenous peoples and the Australian landscape.

2020: Michael Bell
Starting The after party (Two self-portraits) 2020
oil and charcoal on canvas
127.0 x 165.0cm

Artist Statement:
In 2019 I painted a large picture titled The after party. I really loved working on that painting in my studio over a period of about 3 months. The picture included a portrait of myself aged 6 - waving red flags at a primary school fete. My layest painting is a self-portrait in the studio working on that painting. Two self-portraits 55 years apart.

2019: Blak Douglas
Queen of her own stage
(Ms Ursula Yovich) 2019
synthetic polymer on canvas
150.0 x 150.0cm

Artist Statement:
My dear friend Ursula Yovich, actress & songstress dynamo has always been on my list of subjects to paint. A proud Larrakia woman from Darwin, Ursula is currently performing her one woman show 'Barbara & the camp dogs' at Belvoir Theatre in Sydney. I asked Ursula to stand upon a chair for the pose because I saw it as metaphoric for Aboriginal voices to be heard.

2018: Natasha Walsh
Within the Studio (self-portrait) 2017
oil on marble
10.0 x 10.0cm

Artist Statement:
This painting came about after being secluded in my current suitcase sized studio for the last few months, where I have been exploring the nature of the self-portrait. Beginning to feel quite trapped within this self reflecting space, I conceived of this painting where my painted self is likewise trapped within the studio which has folded in on itself inside a convex lens.
The natural distortion of my face, created by the lens, serves as a reminder of both the paintings constructed representation of the ‘self’ and the way in which our perception of 'self’ is always mediated through a lens.

2017: Cameron Stead
Between you and me 2017
oil and acrylic on latex
60.0 x 50.0cm

Artist Statement:
The saying goes: write what you know. I think the same can be said for making art and there is much of myself I’m yet to understand. Often perplexed by my own desires, thoughts and actions, I have chosen to paint a self portrait with the intent of interrogation and self-discovery.
Painting for me offers an opportunity to investigate, expose and make sense of the paradoxes and dualisms played out every day, and more specifically in the art-making process itself. Of particular concern are the relationships between form and subject, the tangible and elusory.

The act of auto asphyxiation - suffocating, enwrapped in a plastic bag - represents a moment of distress, but also gratification. My choice to work on natural latex was an intuitive one, a need to examine the formal qualities of the painted surface and the painting as an object. While I normally work to archival standards, the very support for this painting, the latex, will discolour and even deteriorate over time. In many ways, this self portrait is a metaphor for the felt ironies of art-making; its peaks and troughs; fetishisation and abhorrence; introspection and exhibition

2016: Peter Gardiner
Origin / Landscape 2016
oil on marine ply
63.5 x 47.0cm
Gift of Newcastle Art Gallery Society in recognition of John Clune’s outstanding contribution to the Newcastle Art Gallery Society 2016
Newcastle Art Gallery collection

Artist Statement:

2015: Janelle Thomas
Helen Ross, 94 with Kirsty 2015
oil on linen
86.0 x 81.0cm

Artist Statement:
At 94, Mrs Helen Ross brims with vitality and dignity. I admire Helen’s spirit and contribution to her community as she tirelessly organises and assists local groups. For example, rallying a group that saved the local library from closing. Helen published her 1st novel at age 88. Helen’s latest book, 'Short Stories' 2014, captures some of her rich life experiences. Born 1921 in Scotland, Helen travelled worldwide and now lives on the NSW Central Coast. Helen lived through the blitz in London, then in Germany, where her husband Archie was a Prosecutor in the Nuremburg Trials. Helen worked for the Save the Children Fund in Edinburgh and Germany.

While I was painting, Kirsty, Helen’s beloved companion from Monika’s Rescue, jumped on Helen’s lap to counterbalance the composition perfectly. As they each gaze in opposite directions, both seem lost in reverie about a life well lived. While I painted, Helen recounted fascinating experiences from her life. I minimised the background to focus the portrait on Helen and her bond with Kirsty. Helen credits Kirsty with saving her life after Archie, her beloved husband of 66 years, passed away. Helen and Kirsty were ideal portrait subjects as they both sat graciously and held a very steady pose.

2014: Alan Jones
Robert Forrester #2 2013
oil and acrylic on linen
194.0 x 179.0cm

Artist Statement:
Alan Jones’ maternal family heritage can be traced back to the arrival of convict Robert Forrester aboard the First Fleet. Forrester and his co-accused Richard McDale were convicted at The Old Bailey in London in 1783 for a robbery involving ‘Six pieces of gold coin of the realm called guineas to the value of Six Pounds and Six Shillings being the property of Simon Hughes’. Forrester was sentenced to death.

The death sentence was commuted to transportation to America but due to the ongoing American War of Independence both men were ultimately transported to colonial New South Wales ‘for the term of their natural lives’. Forrester spent the next three years imprisoned on the Thames before setting sail on 'The Scarborough', the hulk that would become one of the eleven First Fleet boats arriving to ‘New South Wales’ in 1788.

Following an unsettling 18 month period on Norfolk Island, Forrester eventually made his way up the Hawkesbury River to Green Hills (now known as Windsor). Forrester lived and worked in the Hawkesbury with his second (common law) wife Isabella ‘Bella’ Ramsay (convict aboard ‘Mary Ann’, Third Fleet) for the remaining years of his life. Robert Forrester died on 14 February 1827, age 69.

In ‘Robert Forrester #2’, Forrester appears worn out, shackled and placed abruptly in front of the plot of land he was first granted on the Hawkesbury River in 1794. This small plot of land located in Windsor frequently appears in Jones’ work as he continues to draw inspiration from this connection to the Hawkesbury area.

Jones has been exploring Australia’s colonial history and the journey of the First Fleet for some time. It interests him from both a personal perspective and from a broader view point as an Australian. Jones is unflinching in his exploration of the tension between his own personal and family identity and the broader context of the shameful history of colonisation and its impact on the First Australians.

2010: Dallas Bray
Going to town 2010
oil on canvas
120.0 x 149.0cm
Recipient of the 2010 KILGOUR PRIZE from the Jack Noel Kilgour bequest
as administered by the Trust Company of Australia Limited
Newcastle Art Gallery collection

Artist statements were not a requirement for finalists during the 2006 - 2010 period.

2008: Dallas Bray
Burning Bush 2008
oil on canvas
140.0 x 160.0cm
Recipient of the 2008 KILGOUR PRIZE from the Jack Noel Kilgour bequest
as administered by the Trust Company of Australia Limited
Newcastle Art Gallery collection

Artist statements were not a requirement for finalists during the 2006 - 2010 period.

2006: Nicholas Harding
Beach Life (pint zinc and figures) 2006
oil on Belgian linen
168.0 x 153.0cm
The inaugural recipient of the KILGOUR PRIZE from the Jack Noel Kilgour bequest
as administered by the Trust Company of Australia Limited 2006
Newcastle Art Gallery collection

Artist statements were not a requirement for finalists during the 2006 - 2010 period.


Lauretta Morton, Director Newcastle Art Gallery
Adam Porter, Head of Curatorial, Campbelltown Arts Centre
David Trout, Visual Artist, Head Teacher Fine Art, Newcastle Art School

Lauretta Morton, Director Newcastle Art Gallery
Rachel Arndt, Gallery Programs and Touring Exhibitions Manager, Museums and Galleries of NSW
Stephen Gilchrist, curator and Lecturer Art History, The University of Sydney

Lauretta Morton, Director Newcastle Art Gallery
Jon Cattapan, Artist and Director of the VCA, University of Melbourne
Michael Dagostino, Director Campbelltown Arts Centre.

Lauretta Morton, Director Newcastle Art Gallery
Judith Blackall, Curator and Manager at the National Art School Gallery Sydney
Matthew Tome, Artist and Head Teacher Newcastle Art School, Hunter TAFE

Lauretta Morton, Manager Newcastle Art Gallery
Tony Oates, Curator, Exhibitions - Drill Hall Gallery, Australian National University
Charles Robb, practicing artist and Associate Lecturer in Art and Design - Queensland University of Technology

Lauretta Morton, Manager Newcastle Art Gallery
Peter Sharp, Artist and Lecturer - University of New South Wales School of Art and Design
Deborah Edwards, Curatorial Consultant - Art Gallery of New South Wales

Lauretta Morton, Manager Newcastle Art Gallery
Angus Trumble, Director National Portrait Gallery
Ross Woodrow, Professor Griffith University

Sarah Johnson, Curator Newcastle Art Gallery
John Cheeseman, Manager Cultural Services / Gallery Director Mosman Art Gallery
Andrew Frost, Art writer and critic

Ron Ramsey, Director Newcastle Art Gallery
Daniel McOwan, Director Hamilton Art Gallery VIC
Ann Lewis AO, Sydney-based collector, patron and philanthropist

Ron Ramsey, Director Newcastle Art Gallery
Debbie Abraham, Director Lake Macquarie City Art Gallery
Joe Eisenberg, Cultural Director Maitland Regional Art Gallery

Nick Mitzevich, Director Newcastle Region Art Gallery
Tony Ellwood, Director National Gallery of Victoria
Karen Quinlan, Director Bendigo Art Gallery

The KILGOUR PRIZE is financed by the Jack Noel Kilgour bequest, administered by The Trust Company, Part of Perpetual.

Image: Dallas Bray Burning Bush 2008 (detail)
oil on canvas 140.0 x 160.0cm
Recipient of the 2008 Kilgour Prize from the Jack Noel Kilgour bequest as administered by the Trust Company of Australia Limited
Newcastle Art Gallery collection