Jack Hickey wins 2017 Hennessy Portrait Prize

Hickey wins €15,000 first prize and a commission of €5,000

The 2017 Hennessy Portrait Prize has been awarded to Jack Hickey for his painting My Time. Its subject is a woman lying, apparently on a bed, her eyes open, a blank green wall beyond her. Sparing in colour, it is rendered with dramatic chiaroscuro.

The artist says that he was attempting "to illuminate the emptiness at the centre of human relationships". Born in Cobh, Co Cork, he graduated from the Crawford College of Art and Design in 2011.

The prize is worth €15,000, plus a €5,000 commission for a portrait to be included in the National Portrait Collection. This year for the first time there were two additional prizes of €1,500 for highly commended works. They went to David Hamilton for his portrait Cormac, which he worked on when both artist and sitter were patients in hospital, and Myra Jago for her self-portrait Reflection. Her work demonstrates her interest in "symmetry, reflection and the mirrored image, where filaments of bounced light . . . look as real as their origin, yet remain devoid of substance."

This is the fourth year of the prize. A panel of four judges – James Hanley, Niamh MacNally, Patrick T Murphy and Dr Yvonne Scott – selected the winners, and a shortlist of 24 works, from 270 entries.


An exhibition of the work of all shortlisted artists is on view in the Portrait Gallery of the National Gallery of Ireland until February 2018. The previous winners are Nick Miller, Vera Klute (who was also shortlisted this year) and Gerry Davis.