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Cherry Hood won the Archibald Prize in 2002 with a portrait of Australian pianist Simon Tedeschi. She met Ben Quilty recently when they both had work in the exhibition Truth and likeness at the National Portrait Gallery in Canberra.
‘He looked fantastic’, says Hood. ‘I was talking with him and he has this really interesting expression and so much character in his face. I hadn’t seen anybody I wanted to paint who’d be appropriate for the Archibald and I thought he’d be perfect.’
After thinking about it for a while, she plucked up the courage to ask if he’d consider posing. Quilty, himself a three-time Archibald finalist, agreed – ‘thank goodness’, says Hood. She went to Quilty’s Sydney studio and had a good look at his work. They chatted for several hours and Hood took around 50 photographs of him in different poses and different light. Then she went back to her own studio and started painting. The portrait came easily – ‘he’s so true to the type of face I like to paint’, she says. Even so, she admits she was nervous showing it to Quilty.
Born in Sydney, Hood moved to the bush near Goulburn, NSW, in 2005 after several hectic years of solo exhibitions in Australia and overseas. She continues to paint her signature composite portraits in watercolour although her airy country studio has allowed her to use oil paint once again. Inevitably, Hood has started to incorporate the rugged local landscape into many of her works. This is her third time in the Archibald Prize.