Monash tutor wins Australia's richest portrait prize

Monash tutor wins Australia's richest portrait prize

12 April 2006

Peter Wegner, Doug Moran National Portrait prize winner

Mr Peter Wegner wins the $100,000 Doug Moran National Portrait Prize for his portrait of friend and muse Graeme Doyle, who he has painted more than 100 times since they met at art school in the 1980s.

"I never get sick of painting Graeme," Mr Wegner said. "He has such an interesting face. Recently, I came across a series of etchings from the early eighties and realised that l have documented not only Graeme's changing moods, but also my own way of seeing."

Mr Wegner says there is no template for winning competitions: "All the stars have to line up. There are so many variables. You have to have the painting the judges will warm to."

He said the judges had recognised the strong connection between the artist and his subject - a fellow painter and poet who also has schizophrenia.

"There's a certain edge to the portraits of Graeme, and they reflect - in some way - his illness," he said. "'Wounded Poet' depicts a very private moment, and the paradox, of course, is that such a private moment has now become public."

It was fourth-time lucky for Mr Wegner, who previously made the final shortlist three years in a row, before triumphing this year over 36 finalists from more than 423 entries. His win with 'Wounded Poet', marks the third time a Monash artist has taken out the award. Ms Prudence Flint (2004) and Ms Kristin Headlam (2000) are previous winners.

Mr Wegner said some of the prize money would be spent on his mortgage, travel and renovating his shed - but it would also free him up to keep painting. "Because it takes the financial edge off, I'll spend more time painting," he said. "For me, the time spent in the studio is the most important."