Winners of Zurich Portrait Prize and Zurich Young Portrait Prize at National Gallery of Ireland announced

L-R: Aidan Crotty, Portrait of a Boy, Morning, 2020. © Aidan Crotty; Eva McParland, Is this normal?, 2020. © Eva McParland

Aidan Crotty wins Zurich Portrait Prize; Eva McParland wins Zurich Young Portrait Prize 

A portrait capturing an eight-year-old boy and his time at home during the Covid-19 pandemic, which became the inspiration for a painting by his father, has been revealed as the winner of the National Gallery of Ireland’s Zurich Portrait Prize. Portrait of a Boy, Morning by Aidan Crotty was announced as the winning portrait this evening at a virtual ceremony. As well as a prize of €15,000, the artist will receive a commission worth €5,000 to produce a new work for the National Portrait Collection.

Sarah Bracken Soper and Sathishaa Mohan received highly commended prizes to the sum of €1,500 for their respective portraits, Trailblazer and Dylan Logan.

Born in Waterford, Aidan Crotty currently lives and works in west Sligo. He graduated in 2004 with a BA in Fine Art Painting from the Crawford College of Art and Design, Cork. Crotty’s artistic practice is involved with conveying the physical presence of the everyday through painting. Primarily a painter, he has been continually developing his practice since 2005, while also teaching and working with arts in the community.

Portrait of a Boy, Morning depicts the artist's eldest son Rían at eight years of age. The painting began when schools were closed and movement was restricted as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic. In his statement about the portrait, Aidan Crotty said, “Absorbed in the notable quiet, Rían turns to feel the morning light warm his face. As we moved from Spring into Summer this painting gave a basic structure to start the day and is a record of our time in confinement.”

Judges for this year’s Zurich Portrait Prize were Rita Duffy, Dr Philip Cottrell and Aoife Ruane. Commenting on their selection, they said, “"We have thoroughly enjoyed participating as judges in this year’s Zurich Portrait Prize and were particularly struck by the overwhelming response to the competition. In these challenging times it is great to see those making time for art and experimenting with their practice in new and exciting ways. We were delighted to have the opportunity to see the artworks ‘in the flesh’, which was very important when making our collective selection of the winner and two highly commended artworks. We extend our congratulations to the winner, Aidan Crotty, and to the two highly commended artists, Sarah Bracken Soper and Sathishaa Mohan. What an amazing achievement for you all and one that is truly deserved. We applaud all of those shortlisted for this year’s Zurich Portrait Prize. Being shortlisted for this prize is, of course, a superb achievement in and of itself.” 

Zurich Young Portrait Prize

Earlier this evening at a virtual ceremony, the winners were also announced for the Zurich Young Portrait Prize. Judges Maria Cagney, Colin Davidson and Aoife Dooley selected a winner from each age category (ages 6 and under, ages 7-11, ages 12-15, ages 16-18), in addition to an overall winner.

Is this Normal? by Eva McParland (age 14) was selected as the overall winner of the Zurich Young Portrait Prize. As well as a personalised wooden box of high quality art materials, the prize includes a €500 prize. In her artist’s statement, Eva McParland said, “This portrait is of my younger sister Ellen. The mask she is putting on is central to the piece. It seems nearly normal now; but not long ago it would seem strange. I think this provokes deeper questions about the concept of normality.”

Conor McPolin (age 6) won the youngest category with Conor, a self-portrait. In the second category, 10-year old Jiayi Sun won with a self-portrait set in Beijing, Myself Eating Ice Cream. A girl in silence, a portrait about freeing imagination by 12-year old Zili Yang, was the winner of the category for ages 12-15. JohnLuka Doherty, aged 17, won the final category with Joey, a portrait of the artist’s school basketball coach. Each category winner is awarded a personalised box of art materials alongside a prize of €250.

Sean Rainbird, Director of the National Gallery of Ireland, said, “In a challenging year for artists and all those who are part of Ireland’s vibrant cultural ecosystem, we were delighted to receive over 1,000 entries across our two competitions. We were thrilled to reopen the Gallery doors just last week, and it’s a joy to watch our visitors explore new work at these exhibitions in our Portrait Gallery. Heartfelt thanks to every artist who submitted a portrait, as well as to our judges and our sponsor Zurich.”

Neil Freshwater, CEO of Zurich, said, “Zurich is proud of its continuing work with the National Gallery of Ireland in showcasing and celebrating portraiture. This year’s shortlists feature an impressive variety of works by artists of all ages. We congratulate winners Aidan Crotty and Eva McParland on their impressive achievements and look forward to seeing the exhibitions open in Cork in 2021.”

The Zurich Portrait Prize exhibition, featuring the winning portrait alongside 25 other shortlisted works, is now open at the National Gallery of Ireland. It will run until 21 March 2021 alongside the Zurich Young Portrait Prize exhibition of 20 shortlisted portraits. Both exhibitions will travel to Crawford Art Gallery in Cork in 2021. 

Media contact:
Kate O’Leary, Communications, National Gallery of Ireland [email protected] / 087 334 1587

Notes to Editor:

  • Images are available on request. 
  • Artists, judges and Gallery representatives are available for interview.

Exhibition listing:
Zurich Portrait Prize & Zurich Young Portrait Prize | Until 21 March 2021
Portrait Gallery | Free admission

Visitor information:
No advanced booking required for entry to the national collection at the National Gallery of Ireland. Pre-booking required for Mondrian exhibition. Sanitising facilities at all entry points and throughout Gallery. Tours and audio guides are not available but versions of Gallery initiatives are available online. Lifts are available but for single use or disability access only. Cloakrooms are closed. Entry via Merrion Square daily until 5.15pm. For late-opening to Mondrian exhibition and Gallery Shop on Tuesdays to Fridays, entry via Clare Street after 5.15pm.

About the National Gallery of Ireland:
The National Gallery of Ireland is one of the country’s most popular visitor attractions housing the nation’s collection of European and Irish art from about 1300 to the present day, and an extensive Library & Archive. Entry to the collection is free for all to enjoy, learn and be inspired.

National Gallery at Home:
For those who are unable to visit the National Gallery of Ireland at the moment, there are many ways to engage with the national collection online. ‘National Gallery at Home’ includes virtual tours, videos, podcasts, activities for children, blogposts and more. A brand new curator-led tour of landmark exhibition Mondrian, ‘Exclusive Curator's tour: Mondrian Online’, will soon be available to purchase on the Gallery website. Find out more about the Gallery at Home

About Zurich:
Ireland is Zurich’s location of choice for its pan-European company Zurich Insurance plc (ZIP). Since the beginning of 2009, ZIP has been headquartered in Dublin and it is the main risk carrier for Zurich’s general insurance business in the EU. Neil Freshwater is the CEO of Zurich Insurance plc. In terms of domestic business, Zurich focuses on two key business areas in Ireland – General Insurance and Life. In Ireland, Zurich employs over 1,250 people.