Artists from almost 100 countries have been whittled down to a trio, including an Israeli, in the search for the world’s best portrait painter.

Matan Ben Cnaan

Matan Ben-Cnaan (Credit: Matan Ben-Cnaan

Israeli artist, Matan Ben-Cnaan’s oil painting of a friend and their stepdaughter, beat over 2500 other entrants to make the final three of the BP Portrait Award.

Ben-Cnaan’s painting is inspired by the biblical story of Jephthah; who upon returning from a victorious battle, has to fulfil a pledge to sacrifice the first thing he sees; which ends up being his daughter, instead of his dog. 

He told the Guardian, “the tension imminent in the moment of realisation of the horrible price one must pay is reflected in the composition.”

Her [Annabelle’s] strong posture reflects her own resolve and her role, in both the biblical story and in Guy’s life, in carrying his burdens and misfortune”, he told the Guardian.

CREDIT: Matan Ben Cnaan

The oil painting that Matan has entered. Credit: Matan Ben-Cnaan

Matan will be competing against Leicester-based Michael Gaskell, who has been runner-up three times already and Spanish painter Borja Buces Renard’s portrait of his mother and brother.

This year’s competition saw 2,748 portraits entered from 92 countries, which was the highest number of entries in 36 years. 

An exhibition of 55 portraits will go be displayed between 18 June and 20 September at the National Portrait Gallery in London.

The winner of the competition will be named in June.

You can visit his website here: http://matanbencnaan.com/