Archibald Prize 2018 education resource

This education resource was produced for the Archibald Prize 2018.

Especially designed for schools, this resource presents ideas for thinking about and making art inspired by key themes and some chosen finalists.

For more information and the artist statement, click on an image and view the work in the Art Gallery of NSW prizes database.

The Archibald Prize is Australia’s favourite art award, and one of its most prestigious. Awarded to the best portrait painting, it is judged by the trustees of the Art Gallery of NSW.

This year they chose Self-portrait, after George Lambert by Yvette Coppersmith as the winner.


Imagine meeting Yvette Coppersmith. What clues are you receiving from this self portrait about her personality, her interests and passions.

George Lambert was an important influence on the artist for this painting. Find out about George Lambert and list the qualities you feel Yvette Coppersmith was inspired by.


Explore how artists use pattern

Select an artwork below. What do the patterns remind you of? Imagine the type and size of the tools the artist has used to create this painting. List the range of colours you can see.
List descriptive words to capture the essence of the sitter. Use these words in a poem based on this portrait.

Observe the attention to detail and list the various types of marks you can see. Compare the layering techniques used by each artist.
Select an artwork and describe the mood the patterns create and consider what it reveals about the sitter.

Create a portrait of someone you admire with a focus on pattern and repetition.


What can the application of paint tell us about the sitter?

Select an artwork and describe the surface of the painting. List the type of tools they may have used to create the textural qualities. Act out the movements they would have made. Do you think the artist painted quickly or over a long period of time? What type of paint have they used?

Many artists in this year’s exhibition have included large areas of exposed canvas in their paintings. What impact does the exposed canvas have upon the portrait?

Create a portrait of someone you know well. Choose to keep some areas of the portrait free of paint or build painterly layers to capture the essence of the sitter.


The pose can reveal much about the sitter and the artist’s intention.

Describe the body language of the sitters in these artworks. What does the pose tell us about the sitter? Copy the pose and consider how you feel.
Imagine stepping into this painting. Describe what can you see. Is the space cluttered or empty? How does the sitter occupy this space?

Select a painting in which the subject is directly engaging with the viewer. Study the composition and describe the expression on their face. What could they be thinking about? How does the subject’s gaze hold the viewer’s attention?

Create a series of portraits of the same sitter using different poses and compare.


Where the sitter is placed can reveal much about the sitter’s world.

Select an artwork and describe the places you can see. Visualise walking into this place. How do they make you feel? Are they intimate or public places? What do they tell us about the sitter?

Survey the places depicted in these artworks. Are there any clues to the sitter’s profession or interests? What type of person do you think they are? List the characteristics that make them unique.

Create a self portrait. What place would you select for a self-portrait? How does this place capture your personality?


Many artists have a strong connection with their pets.

Describe the type of animals featured in these paintings. Are they friendly or frightening?

Imagine meeting these people and their pets. Write a list of questions you would bring to the interview.

How do you think these works might challenge traditional notions of portraiture?

Read the statement for each of these works. Consider the importance of the title. Discuss the role of irony in these portraits.

Think about your real or imagined pet. Include this pet in your own portrait.