A portrait of Australian actor and cancer campaigner Samuel Johnson by Jeremy Eden has won the Audience Award at the 2022 Archibald Prize.
Eden, a Sydney-based artist, first met Johnson via video in 2021 while the actor was recovering from a near-fatal car accident. Eden then flew to Melbourne for a live session with Johnson before returning to Sydney where he painted up to six hours a day for 10 weeks to complete the portrait.
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The men bonded over their shared experience of losing close family members to cancer. Johnson, who founded the cancer research charity Love Your Sister with his late sister Connie before her death in 2017, encouraged Eden to include his own story in the painting; The portrait shows Johnson with a photo of Eden’s mother, Annette, who died of cancer in 2008.
Eden, who wins a $5,000 prize, said it was “an honor”.
“This painting is one that I’ve been thinking about and wanting to do for 10 years,” he said. “Sam is a storyteller at heart and it was really important to find a way to share my own narrative while also capturing Sam’s character and emotions in the portrait.
“It’s inspiring to see what Sam and the team at Love Your Sister have achieved by raising so much money for cancer research. I have followed Sam’s journey with the charity for many years and it is a privilege to be able to contribute in my own way. It is amazing to be an Archibald Prize finalist, but knowing that the painting resonated with so many people makes the experience even more meaningful.”
Love Your Sister has raised more than $15 million to support cancer research. In 2016, Johnson was awarded the Order of Australia Medal for services to cancer research and the performing arts.
Johnson called Eden “extraordinarily talented”.
“He’s an exceptional storyteller, has a huge heart and so deserves this recognition. To win the Archibald Prize you have to please a select group of people who really know their stuff. Winning the audience award requires the votes of everyone who sees the exhibition. People spoke and they loved Jeremy the most,” he said.
“Wow and phwoar. I’m so happy for Jeremy. Such a well deserved triumph.”
Maud Page, deputy director and director of collections at the Art Gallery of New South Wales, said the portrait was a clear crowd favorite among visitors to the annual Archibald exhibition.
“Congratulations to Jeremy Eden on winning the hearts of our visitors with his powerful portrayal of Samuel Johnson,” Page said.
Eden was born in Sydney in 1988 and graduated with a Bachelor of Fine Art from Queensland College of Art in 2015. He was also nominated for the Archibald Prize in 2021 for his portrait of another actor, Firass Dirani.
First awarded in 1988, the People’s Choice category was voted on by more than 35,000 people that year, the highest number of votes ever cast in the category’s history.
In May, acclaimed Dhungatti artist Blak Douglas won the $100,000 Archibald Prize for his portrait of Wiradjuri artist Karla Dickens entitled Moby Dickens, making him the second Indigenous Australian winner in 101 years.
And Claus Stangl’s portrait of filmmaker Taika Waititi won the Wrapping Room award, which is given by gallery staff who hang up the submissions each year.