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Last Updated: Wednesday, 20 June 2007, 22:20 GMT 23:20 UK
Neighbour portrait nets BP prize
Michael Simpson (detail), by Paul Emsley
Paul Emsley was struck by Michael Simpson's Russian ancestry
A 59-year-old artist from Wiltshire has won the BP Portrait Award, receiving 25,000 and a commission worth 4,000.

Paul Emsley triumphed with a study of a neighbour, artist Michael Simpson, one of 60 portraits currently on show at London's National Portrait Gallery.

Emsley, from Bradford-upon-Avon, was drawn by Simpson's "strong presence", adding that his face carried "something of the history of Eastern Europe".

Czech artist Hynek Martinec won the inaugural BP Young Artist Award.

'Deserving winner'

The 27-year-old artist, whose work is featured in Prague's National Gallery and the British Museum, received 5,000 for his painting of girlfriend Zuzana.

For the first time this year the annual Portrait Award was opened to artists over 40.

Organisers said they received a record number of entries, from countries including the US, Norway and Israel.

Zuzana by Hynek Martinec
Hynek Martinec's portrait of his girlfriend Zuzana also won a prize

"Paul Emsley's portrait of fellow artist Michael Simpson is an excellent and deserving winner," said Sandy Nairne, director of the National Portrait Gallery, adding that it was contemporary portrait painting "at its best."

Nairne led the panel of judges including critic Rachel Campbell-Johnston and model Erin O'Connor.

Taking second place, and winning 8,000, was the previously shortlisted British artist David Lawton, with his oil painting entitled Stephen.

Swedish artist Johan Andersson came third with his painting Tamara, collecting a cheque for 6,000.

Now in their 28th year, the National Portrait Awards were presented by human rights campaigner Bianca Jagger in London on Wednesday.

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