History of


One of Australia's most loved and richest portrait awards, the biennial Shirley Hannan National Portrait Award celebrates realistic portraiture in memory of our eponymous patron. 

Hannan, a gifted portraitist, was well known in the Bega Valley as a staunch supporter and generous patron of the arts, funded the John Balmain National Award for Portraits and Figure Drawing from 1993 until she re-established it in her own name in 2002 with a substantially increased first prize of $15,000.

A prerequisite for the award was made that those works selected to hang depict their subjects accurately without abstraction and demonstrate a sound skill and knowledge of drawing and painting technique. The award was established with a specific and unremitting realist bent, which continues to this day.

Before her death in 2005, Hannan doubled the prize purse to $30,000 and it was decided to discarded the figure drawing component of the prize, concentrating on portraiture alone.

Hannan's husband, Brian Settle, established the Shirley Hannan Trust to perpetuate the Shirley Hannan National Portrait Award as a biennial, national portrait prize with a focus on accurate depiction.

In 2012, Hannan's son Peter, himself a talented photographer, paid further tribute to his mother's memory with a generous personal donation of an additional $20,000 bringing the prize purse for subsequent awards to $50,000.


THE SHIRL : National Youth Portrait Prize

In 2014 the new BVRG Director decided a gap had appeared in the portrait prize milieu after the National Portrait Gallery discontinued its Youth Portrait Prize and it was decided that THE SHIRL should be established to run at the gallery on consecutive years. This $10,000 acquisitive award was launched in December 2015 and attracted over 200 entries from artists between the ages of 16 and 25. Aimed at increasing participation of young artists in the prize sector, and to capture the excellence being achieved at the culmination of secondary and tertiary art studies. 


MEDIA RELEASE | February 16 2016



Shirley Hannan Award judge announced


Dr Christopher Chapman, the senior curator of the National Portrait Gallery in Canberra, has been selected as the judge of the 2016 Shirley Hannan National Portrait Award in the Bega Valley Regional Gallery on Friday, 17 June.

The Shirley Hannan is well established as one of Australia’s best loved and richest portrait prizes with a first prize of $50,000.

It is sponsored by the Shirley Hannan Trust and is a celebration of realistic portraiture and attracts both established and emerging painters from across Australia.

Dr Chapman is Senior Curator at the National Portrait Gallery where he has produced major exhibitions exploring diverse experiences of selfhood and identity.

He joined the Gallery in 2008 and was promoted to Senior Curator in 2011.

Working in the visual arts field since the late 1980s, Dr Chapman has held curatorial roles at the National Gallery of Australia and the Art Gallery of South Australia.


He has lectured in visual arts and culture for the Australian National University and his PhD thesis examined youth masculinity and themes of self-sacrifice in photography and film.


Finalists will be chosen by a selection panel of independent art professionals and the prize patron, Peter Hannan, son of the late Shirley Hannan.

The 10th Shirley Hannan National Portrait Award exhibition will run from 17 June to 20 August.

The Bega Valley Regional Gallery is located in Zingel Place (opposite Littleton Gardens), Bega, NSW.

Phone 02 6499 2187 or check our website at gallery.begavalley.nsw.gov.au Opening hours are Tuesday to Friday from 10am to 4pm and Saturday from9am to noon and entry is always free.