Two souls in rhythm take art prize

Kylie Melinda Smith wins women's portraiture award for painting of Eileen Kramer, 104

FRIENDS: Artist Kylie Melinda Smith and sitter Eileen Kramer. Photo: Sarah Kukathas

FRIENDS: Artist Kylie Melinda Smith and sitter Eileen Kramer. Photo: Sarah Kukathas


Portia Geach People's Choice Award: What a life. What a portrait. What a woman.


A PORTRAIT of 104-year-old dancer Eileen Kramer has won Sydney artist Kylie Melinda Smith the 2019 Portia Geach People's Choice Award.

Ms Smith described Ms Kramer as "one of the most inspirational Australians alive today"

"A true bohemian, she is a celebrated dancer, choreographer, costume designer, painter and writer along with artists model," she said.

After more than 50 years abroad, dancing her way through India, Pakistan, New York City and West Virginia in the US, at the age of 99, Ms Kramer decided it was time to come home, Ms Smith said, "to hear the kookaburras again".

"We have become close friends and the hours I spend with her are as delightful and rich as any human connection could be," the artist said.

"Her humour, beauty, and intelligence are all a constant source of inspiration.

"An issue with balance makes it hard for Eileen to stand so she now prefers to dance sitting down. Eileen sees this as just another creative challenge.

"Painting Eileen was indeed an honour. We are both alumni of The Art Students League in New York City - Eileen, as an artist's model, and me a student of atelier drawing and painting.

"Eileen's creativity and knowledge of the arts allow her to understand the process of painting, making her the perfect subject."

The award is held in association with the 2019 Portia Geach Memorial Award, Australia's most recognised portraiture prize for women. It is conducted under the auspices of the National Trust at the S.H. Ervin Gallery in Sydney each year.

Sally Robinson received the overall award for her self-portrait Body in a box (2019).

Highly commended artists were Pollyxenia Joannou for Me, the Irishman and the chair and Victoria Reichelt for La Mere (after Elizabeth Nourse).