A portrait of Australian actor and cancer activist Samuel Johnson by Jeremy Eden has won the 2022 Archibald Prize People’s Choice Award.
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.
The men valued their shared experience of losing close relatives to cancer. Johnson, who co-founded the cancer research charity Love Your Sister with his late sister Connie before she passed away in 2017, encouraged Eden to include his own story in the painting; the portrait shows Johnson holding a photo of Eden’s mother Annette, who died of cancer in 2008.
Eden, who wins a $5,000 prize, said it was “an honour.”
“This painting is one that I’ve been thinking about and have wanted to make for ten years,” he said. “Sam is a storyteller at heart, and it was very important to find a way to share my own story while still capturing Sam’s character and emotion 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’ve been following Sam’s journey with the cause for many years and it’s a privilege to be able to contribute in my own way. It’s great to be a finalist in the Archibald Prize, but knowing that the painting appeals to 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 his services to cancer research and the performing arts.
Johnson called Eden “exceptionally talented”.
“He is an extraordinary storyteller, has a huge heart and so fully deserves this recognition. To win the Archibald Prize you have to please a select group of people who really know their stuff. To win the public choice, everyone who sees the exhibition has to vote. People have spoken and they loved Jeremy the most,” he said.
“Wow and phwoar. I’m stupid happy for Jeremy. Such a well-deserved triumph.”
Maud Page, the 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.
“We congratulate Jeremy Eden for capturing the hearts of our visitors with his powerful portrait of Samuel Johnson,” said Page.
Born in 1988 in Sydney, Eden completed a bachelor of fine art at the Queensland College of Art in 2015. He was also nominated for the Archibald Prize in 2021, for his portrayal of another actor, Firass Dirani.
This year’s People’s Choice category was first awarded in 1988 and this year more than 35,000 people voted, 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, titled Moby Dickens, making him the second Indigenous Australian winner in 101 years, after Vincent Namatjira in 2020.
And Claus Stangl’s portrait of filmmaker Taika Waititi won the wrapping room award, which is judged by gallery staff who put up the entries each year.