One of Australia's most loved and richest portrait awards, the biennial Shirley Hannan National Portrait Award celebrates realistic portraiture in memory of the Gallery's 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 AUD15,000.
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 AUD30,000 and it was decided to discard the figure drawing component of the prize, concentrating on portraiture alone.
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 AUD20,000 bringing the prize purse for subsequent awards to AUD50,000.