When Tim Storrier won the Archibald Prize on March 30, 2012, no one expected the occasion at the Art Gallery of NSW to become a doggy day out. But that’s exactly what happened when Storrier’s family cajoled the gallery attendants into giving the family pooch special access. And quite rightly so, because Smudge the rescued fox terrier is literally top dog in Storrier’s winning painting, sitting at the pinnacle of a pile of travelling requisites with which Storrier depicts himself. The painting is titled The Histrionic Wayfarer (after Bosch). The painting is reproduced at left.

The winning artist is always the centre of attention on Archibald announcement day, but this year Smudge was equally in demand among the assembled media throng. She was photographed and filmed from every possible angle, and took it all in her rather jaunty stride. Used to the peppery smell of fresh oil paint from Storrier’s studio, where she is the artist’s constant companion, Smudge perhaps felt quite at home at the gallery.

Here’s my photographic record of Smudge’s big day out.

Chief of AGNSW trustees Stephen Lowy announces that Storrier has won the prize.

Immediately after the announcement, Smudge appears in Storrier’s arms, having been brought into the gallery by family.

Smudge waits while AGNSW acting director Anne Flanagan says congratulations to Storrier.

Storrier holds Smudge while being interviewed by Anne Maria Nicholson for the ABC.

Now it’s Scott Bevan from the ABC. Smudge stays put.

Smudge gets put down and is immediately the subject of more video.

Smudge poses for a happy snap with Storrier’s sons and step-daughter.

Here’s a detail of the winning painting, showing Smudge. If you look closely, you can see she is looking at a drawing of Storrier as it flies away in the wind.

And here’s Storrier’s painting from the finals of last year’s Archibald Prize. Titled Moon Boy (self portrait as a young man) it also shows the artist ruminating on the nature of the self, and whether to be invisible is really to be absent. The painting speaks of life and death, of eternity and memory. It’s a wonderful picture. Pity the Art Gallery of NSW isn’t an acquisitive prize. It would be nice to have Storrier’s winning painting in the collection, not to mention many other past winners of the Archibald Prize. Perhaps that’s a thought?

And finally, here’s a link to the Australian Galleries exhibition in which Storrier showed more portraits in his current series.

Elizabeth Fortescue, April 27, 2012