Janna Kearney ‘There’s A Rainbow After Every Storm’. Portrait of Tilly Baker musician

A list of 57 finalists has been announced today for the country’s most distinguished portrait prize for female artists, the Portia Geach Memorial Award. The $30,000 annual prize is administered by the award trustee, Perpetual.

Established in 1961 by Florence Kate Geach, in memory of her sister, artist Portia Geach, the Portia Geach Memorial Award recognises an Australian female artist for the best portrait painted from life of a man or woman distinguished in art, letters or the sciences.

Born in 1873 in Melbourne, Portia Geach studied with John Singer Sargent and Lawrence Alma-Tadema in London and was also a lifelong activist for women’s rights. She established the Housewives Progressive Association of New South Wales, The Housewives Magazine in 1933 and the Progressive Journal two years later to promote issues such as equal pay for women and the right to hold public office.

The judging panel for this year’s award comprised Ms Anita Belgiorno-Nettis, Trustee of Art Gallery of New South Wales, Ms Natalie Wilson, Curator of Australian and Pacific Art at The Art Gallery of New South Wales and Director S.H Ervin Gallery, Ms Jane Watters. 

On behalf of the judging panel, Jane Watters, Director S.H. Ervin Gallery said: “The judges were delighted with the increased number of submissions from well-established and emerging artists and their diverse approach to portraiture in this year’s award. We were particularly pleased with the high standard of work and believe that the selection recognises the important contribution of Australian female artists make to contemporary portraiture.”

Some of the sitters for this year’s award include ABC chair Ita Buttrose; politician Zali Steggal, academic Kylie Moore-Gilbert; crossword puzzler David Astle, and well-known artists Tony Costa Reg Mombassa, Peter Wegner and Ann Thomson.

The winner will be announced on. Wednesday  3 November, 2021.




Catherine Abel ‘Painted flowers No.1 (Sarah Ivy Rose Abel)’


Margaret Ackland ‘The reader: a self portrait in silver with glass and stripes’


Michelle Belgiorno ‘Unmasked’


Jo Bertini ‘Anne – Remember me if I forget’ (Anne Ferguson, artist)


Joanna Braithwaite ‘Aficionado’ (Chloe Wolfison, independent arts writer, researcher and curator)


Cynthia Breusch ‘Portrait of singer/ songwriter T.Wilds’ (Tania Bower aka T.Wilds)


Filippa Buttitta ‘Tony Costa in his studio’


Ann Cape ‘Ann Thomson in her studio’


Yvette Coppersmith ‘1964, Margot Fonteyn and Rudolf Nureyev for Vogue’ (self portrait with Ryan James)


Sinead Davies ‘A version of self with lavender’


Janine Dello ‘Juggle’ (self portrait)


Nicolette Eisdell ‘Susan Hamilton’ (adult educator, psychotherapist and relationships counsellor)


Marina Finlay ‘Peter Carroll as Firs in ‘The Cherry Orchard”‘ (Peter Carroll, actor)


Holly Greenwood ‘Lockdown Laura’ (Laura Jones, artist)


Jane Guthleben ‘Zali, as Flora” (Zali Steggall OAM, politician)


Tsering Hannaford ‘Portrait of Jim’ (Jim Litchfield, farmer)


Kristin Headlam ‘Him & her’ Chris Wallace-Crabbe, poet)


Jacqueline Hennessy ‘Untitled (what happens to the heart)’ (self portrait)


Sophia Hewson ‘Untitled (self portrait)’


Michelle Hiscock ‘The bass player ‘(Steve Hunter)


Janne Kearney ‘There’s a rainbow after every storm’ (Tilly Baker, musician)


Nicole Kelly ‘Double self (valley between doubt and dream)’


Kim Leutwyler ‘Rhi’ (Rhi Venn, tattooist)


Rosy Lloyd ‘Selfie in the bedroom’


Kathrin Longhurst ‘The young poet’ (Haya, poet)


Alison Mackay ‘Glenn as pox pot with fancy handles’ (Glenn Barkley, ceramicist)


Lisa McKimmie ‘Janet McKimmie’ (mother, wife, explorer)


Hellie Mahony ‘Cracking the egg’ (self portrait)


Marie Mansfield ‘Tilly (Mathilda Michell, artist)


Matilda Michell ‘D.A. with a copy of today’s paper (David Astle, cryptic crossword guru, media personality and writer)


Heather Mitchell ‘Martin’ (Martin McGrath)


Justine Muller ‘Vittorio from the Piccolo Bar’


Kirsty Neilson ‘Ita after Whistler’ (Ita Buttrose, chair, ABC and media icon)’


Susan O’Doherty ‘Margaret Ackland in chequered dress’


Nicole O’Loughlin “Googling how to be a good mother’ (self prtrait with child)


Sassy Park ‘Mara composing’ (Mara Schwerdtfeger, musician and composer)


Amanda Penrose Hart ‘Reggie’ (Reg Mombassa)


Lori Pensini ‘My language of flowers’ (self portrait)


Rachel Perrin ‘One painter, two painters’ (Peter Wegner, artist)


Victoria Reichelt ‘Self portrait as parent’


Jenny Rodgerson ‘Standing in the green leather coat’ (self portrait)


Jennifer Rosnell ‘Half a conversation with Ken (Ken Done)’


Lynn Savery ‘Eloise da Silva as a wanderer (after Velazquez)’


Kirthana Selvaraj ‘ ‘Kirthana and Oscar’


Wendy Sharpe ‘Unfinished business’ (self portrait)


Yuri Shimmyo ‘Time management’ (self portrait)


Dee Smart ‘Paul Ryan – The Rake’s Progress’ (Paul Ryan, artist)

Alex Snellgrove ‘In her element: portrait of Helen Pitt)’ (journalist and writer)


Kate Stead ‘Zoe and her daughters (Zoe Gameau, writer, artist, eco-feminist)


Kate Stevens ‘Dusty’ (Daryll ‘Dusty’ Miller, ex-SAS combat medic)


Liz Stute ‘Foxy lady – self portrait’


Trish Tait ‘Midlife and me’


Pam Tippett ‘Together – Amanda Bell AM’


Deborah Walker ‘The suitcase (Autobiographical memory)’


Zoe Young ‘ The beauty of resilience’ (Kylie Moore-Gilbert, academic)


Caroline Zilinsky ‘The matriarch (Emma van Haandel Williams)’


Tianli Zu ‘Dr Gene’ (Dr Gene Sherman AM)

The 2021 Portia Geach Memorial Award exhibition of all finalists will open for viewing by the public at the S.H. Ervin Gallery, The Rocks from 4 November to 19 December 2021.

Featured image : Trish Tait ‘Midlife and me’