Archibald Prize Winner 2008 – Del Kathryn Barton

The Sydney artist Del Kathryn Barton has won the Archibald prize for portraiture in 2008. Her painting titled “You are what is most beautiful about me, a self portrait with Kell and Arella” has won her $50,000 and a whole bunch of media attention as the art prize is one of the few in Australia that get any mainstream media love.

Her winning portrait depicts herself and her two children, Kell and Arella. The artist said “This painting celebrates the love I have for my two children and how my relationship with them has radically informed and indeed transformed my understanding of who I am.” She also said “Both my children have taken my world by storm and very little compares to the devotion I feel for them both. The intensity of this emotion is not something that I could have prepared myself for. The alchemy of life offered forth from my inhabitable woman’s body is perhaps the greatest gift of my life.”

2008 Archibald Prize Winner Del Kathryn Barton

It’s an interesting choice, and most of the media seem relatively happy with the winner for 2008, but I don’t think it should have won. Del Kathryn Barton has been Hot lately, with a waiting list of collectors lining up to get a piece of her and auction records of her work being broken again and again (with paintings being sold for $150,000+), but I can’t see what all the fuss is about. I think she’s a good artist, but she doesn’t seem to have broken free from the spells of Egon Schiele and Gustav Klimt. Del Kathryn Barton is currently showing at the Karen Woodbury Gallery in Richmond, Victoria.

Also at the Art Gallery of NSW, Joanne Currie Nalingu’s painting called “The River Is Calm” won the Wynne Prize, which is for landscape painting or sculptures of the figure. While the artist Rodney Pople won the Sulman Prize for “Stage Fright”.

Here’s a list of the finalists for the Archibald prize in 2008. My two picks for the top prize would be Jun Chen’s “Ian Smith” and Zhong Chen’s “Nicholas Harding” portraits.

Coxsoft art also mentioned a portrait of the late Aussie actor Heath Ledger by the artist Vincent Fantauzzo. It was a close second to take out the Archibald prize, with judges divided between the Heath Ledger portrait and the Barton self portrait.

About Dion

Australian artist and observer of things.. all kinds of things. I like a wide variety of art, from the weird and wonderful to the bold and beautiful.. and everything in between.


  1. What a mixture! With the UK Turner Prize, you expect rubbish and that’s what you get. With our big Portraiture Award, you expect quality and that’s what you get. But this Aussie award really attracts the good, the bad and the ugly. I see you like ugly, but we agree that the winner didn’t deserve the prize. I guess the judges went for her pretentious waffle: never mind the quality, read the blurb. My favourite is Zai Kuang’s The sisters: Celia and Julia: simple, elegant and beautiful with tightly controlled use of colour. A gem.

  2. Can you please explain your choice of Chen’s pictures? They do not look very original for me.
    What I like about the winner is the Indian motive, which brings power into the picture.

  3. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder Ian ;-)

    I liked Zai Kuang’s portrait also. There’s a few paintings that I would happily hang on my wall amongst them.

    Dovile, I chose the Chen paintings as I like works that look like paintings. I want to see paint piled on, dripping off, and brushmarks that are not hidden.

    I would probably like Del Kathryn Barton’s portrait more if I didn’t like Egon Schiele as much as I do.


  4. Thanks for the answer:)

  5. Anonymous says:

    I totally disagree with you guys. I think Del Kathryn Barton deserved to win. Imagine how much time, effort and emotion she must have put into her painting!I’m only 14 and I’m not an art expert or anything, but isn’t the blurb kind of important? I think her ‘pretentious waffle’ tells the meaning behind the artwork and the meaning is a big part of the art when you’re making it. Like it means a lot to the person who did it. And it really stood out from the other pictures and I love how she did the eyes. The eyes on the kids are so deep and detailed. But yeah I liked Zai Kuangs picture too… It’s just so clean and pure and real. It’s pretty.

  6. Each to their own.

    Can someone tell me the dimensions of the winning painting by Del Kathryn Barton.


  7. Anonymous says:

    Baa humbug – whats up with some of you self appointed critics. I hope you ney sayers are not artists yourself, as you should know better. If artists can’t support each other, knowing full well how you would feel after having your efforts pulled apart, by people who, for some unknown reason consider their negative opinions to be of some value! If you aint got anything nice to say don’t say anything at all — I have a sneaking suspicion some of you would no longer have any need for a voice box. Accept a competition/award for what it is, very subjective and a showcase of the opinions of a select few – so stop picking holes in the artists, as all they did was do their very best (you would hope) and put themselves forward along with many others, hoping for a win. You mean spirited stinkers.

  8. Anon, so just because we’re artists we have to support all the work that other artists do?

    If you can’t handle criticism, you should never produce art.. or at least never let it leave your studio.

    Most artists know that criticism of the art is not criticism of the person (artist).

  9. Dearest Art News Blog,

    Yes yes, justify it. Why not. Of course you don’t have to do anything you don’t want to do. I am not your mother. It would be mighty nice if you supported ALL the WORK other artists do, it wouldn’t kill ya (not that that is what I said, being supportive of other artists is very different to supporting all the work they do). And noone would be any worse off either (which is often not the case when words like rubbish, bad, ugly, pretenious waffle etc are bandied about).

    Yes, yes idealistic it may be. It doesn’t take a degree in sainthood to know how treat others with respect. When a person wants constructive criticism or an honest opinion they’ll ask.

    Funny, I was not referring to your comments, yours were constructive and informative (In my opinion)… but…I am responding to your questions as I just can’t help myself (even if it does end badly)…

    Yes you are right, criticism is part and parcel of putting your work out there (I am no wearer of rose coloured specticals), but this is more a reflection of the types of people that inhabit the artworld (and beyond)and does not make unkind criticism any less unnecessary or unattractive in a person. Why because it is art is it suddenly an accepted part of the art culture when in life critical people are scorned upon.

    Of course criticism of the art IS criticism of the person. That statement is not thought out at all, it is a well formed cop out. — Listen Son, that speech you wrote for school is a load of doggy doo doo. I am not criticisng you, just your thought processes, your decision making skills, your taste, and ability to write a descent speech. So for goddness sake please don’t take it personally.—- Nup don’t agree with ya on that one.

    I know I am butting heads with people who think very differently to me. I also know I will convert noone to my way of thinking, nor will there be any epiphany, but alas I wasted my time anyway, time better spent creating yet another great masterpiece to put out in the world to be picked apart by stinkers. Yippee!!!, can’t wait…not.

    Bye bye
    Bloggidy blog blog.

  10. Anon, it’s not an easy lesson to learn, and some artists never learn it, but the fact of the matter is that you have to separate yourself from your work as soon as it leaves your studio. Artists that dont learn the lesson will suffer endlessly as criticism can be nasty stuff if you take every word to heart.

    Personally, any paintings of mine in the studio are above criticism and I would be personally offended if anyone had anything bad to say about them. The person would be quickly thrown out and not allowed back in ever again.

    BUT if that same person waited until the painting left the studio to criticize the work, I would listen to their criticism with a smile. I may or may not take any notice of their criticism, but I certainly wouldnt take it personally or try to defend the work.

    Also, I don’t take your criticism (of my thought process) personally either. I would never click the “publish” button for each post if I was too concerned about what others thought. I’m also not trying to convert you to my way of thinking, just sharing my experience with criticism.

    It would be nice if criticism (especially self serving criticism that strokes the ego of the critic) didnt exist, but we both know that’ll never happen, so we just have to get over it and deal with it.

  11. Anonymous says:

    Well put you wise we cookie!
    I have had a wander through your “Art News Blog” and I am impressed. I may not agree with you on some matters but I certainly respect your opinion and can see where you are coming from (especially your last entry). Yay for people who maintain a high degree of professionalism when it comes to running a blog site. Bestest wishes to you.

    From one annoying little anonymous blog newby ;)

  12. Thanks Anon. I wouldnt call it a “high degree of professionalism” but I do try to be reasonably civil.

    And most people that are annoying are also called But no, I didnt find you annoying. The world would suck if everyone thought like me.


  13. i think it’s gorgeous. ‘you are what is most beautiful about me’ everything about it is just mesmerising.

  14. Anonymous says:

    HI its another anonymous
    what media did she use to paint her picture>
    and what were the dimensions?
    i cant find them AYWHERE!!

  15. Anonymous says:

    the demisions for del kathryn batons winning painting is 180cm by 280, as for the media?

  16. i need dimensions !

  17. whats the dimensions ?
    is it exact ?

  18. Personally, I think Del Kathryn’s work is beautiful and she paints in a particularly unique way that really does portray the love she has for her kids. I think this is a special work that shouldn’t be criticized negatively by people who do not realise the amount of time and energy the artist has put in. As an artist I think she has done a marvelous job. Congrats on your win Del!

  19. Congrats Del!

  20. No work is above criticism, regardless how much time, energy, or sentimentality was put into it. Life is hard, being an artist is probably harder.. in life our other option is to become a hermit, and in art our option is to not exhibit work. Or we can just deal with life and criticism. The latter is more enjoyable.. I have tried both.


  1. […] Two of the most well known portrait prizes in Australia have been won with self portraits by female artists in 2008, with Del Kathryn Barton winning the Archibald prize. […]

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