The Archibald Prize winners are getting bigger

By Pallavi Singhal, Mark Stehle and Reginal Sengkey

From miniatures of artists’ friends to larger-than-life depictions of prime ministers, actors and footballers, the Archibald Prize has tracked the nation’s faces for a century.

Winning portraits have changed in style from Georgian portraits to psychedelia.

The portraits have also steadily gotten bigger since the prize began in 1921. The smallest portrait to have won was Sam Leach’s portrait of Tim Minchin in 2010, at 60 centimetres tall and 38 centimetres wide, followed by George Lambert’s portrait of Mrs Murdoch, in 1927, at 61 by 51 centimetres.

The largest, Cherry Hood’s Simon Tedeschi unplugged, which won in 2002, was more than five times as tall at 3.2 metres, and 1.9 metres wide.

As the Archibald celebrates its 100th anniversary, scroll through the gallery below to see past winners and how they’ve changed in style and size.

Over the past 10 years, the winning portraits have been an average of 1.7 metres tall, compared to 95 centimetres in the prize’s first 10 years.

Entries became so large that a size limit of 90,000 square centimetres was introduced in 2003.

The 2021 winner, Peter Wegner’s Portrait of Guy Warren at 100, was 1.2 by 1.5 metres, making it smaller than the previous decade’s average.

Guy Warren won the 1985 Archibald Prize with his portrait of artist Bert Flugelman, one of the tallest paintings to have won at 2.25 metres.

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