New York City’s David Kassan Wins Third at BP Portrait Awards 2014

In the age of the “selfie,” painting a portrait may seem like a lost art. But it is very much alive at the National Portrait Gallery, which recently held the BP Portrait Awards.

The National Portrait Gallery was founded in 1856 to collect portraits of famous British men and women. Today, it remains relevant by recognizing the most outstanding and innovative new portraits from around the world. In fact, the BP Portrait Awards has been the most prestigious international portrait painting competition for the past 35 years.

New York City artist David Kassan recently received one of the BP Portrait Awards top honors. His portrait, “Letter to My Mom,” garnered third place from a record number of more than 2,300 entries.

As the name suggests, Kassan’s prize-winning painting features his mother, who reluctantly agreed to serve as his subject. As Kassan describes his work, “This portrait is a letter to my mom, who hates it when I paint her. But I tell her in the painting that by painting her, it is my way of spending time with her, contemplating our relationship and time together, my earliest memories.”

The portraits shows Kassan’s mom standing with her hands folded across her waist and her gaze fixed downward. The Hebrew text above her reads: ‘Dear Mom,/ This painting is my way to spend more time with you./ My way to meditate on our life together./ And all of the earliest memories I have/All of my earliest memories from you.”

The artist’s stark realism has earned him acclaim in the New York art community and abroad. According to Kassan’s mother, her son may be too good. In a behind-the-scenes video produced by the National Portrait Gallery about the award, she says, ”His brush strokes are so exactly what he sees that I don’t think we like what he sees of ourselves. We like to think of ourselves when we were back in our 20s and 30s.”

The National Portrait Gallery’s BP Portrait Awards Exhibition runs through September 21. Locally, you can find David Kassan’s work exhibited at New York City’s Gallery Henoch.

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