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14 Oct 4:00pm

Portrait Artist of the Year review – Bake Off for painters is an hour-long cuddle

The Guardian
Stephen Mangan hosts as a mix of amateur and professional artists compete to produce the best portrait within four hours. It is gripping from start to finish The always lovely Portrait Artist of the Year is back for a seventh series, and it continues to be such a welcome addition to the schedules that I hope it returns for many more years to come. Stephen Mangan hosts what is in essence the Great British Paint Off, and while I believe there is some kind of saying about the levels of excitement involved in watching paint dry, this is gripping from initial sketch to finished product. Each week, a mix of amateur and professional artists produce, within four hours, portraits of three famous or well-known sitters, using a pleasing variety of techniques and approaches. Some are flamboyant, some are precise. Some do the squinty perspective thing with their fingers. Some use both hands at once. It is essentially that Bake Off showstopper challenge where they had to commemorate their heroes with cake busts, only with paint, talent and more dignity. In this opening episode, the sitters are Ncuti Gatwa (Eric in Sex Education), Cold Feet’s Fay Ripley and Lady Glenconner, a former lady-in-waiting to Princess Margaret. Each gets to choose their favourite portrait at the end, then the judges choose their favourite three portraits, and then an overall winner emerges from those favourites and is put through to the next round.
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