Thomas Ganter is a Frankfurt/Main based illustrator and painter, whose portrait ‘Man with a Plaid Blanket’, won this year’s BP Portrait Award at the National Portrait Gallery in London.
The portrait depicts Karel, a man the artist saw sat outside Frankfurt’s Städel Museum. Having spent a considerable amount of time in the museum admiring portraits by Van Eyck, Velasquez and Hobein, Thomas Ganter decided that he would like to paint this man with the same grandeur, craftsmanship and attention afforded by these great Old Masters.
Ganter said ‘After being in a museum, I saw a homeless man and was stunned by a similarity: the clothes, the pose, and other details resembled what I just saw in various paintings. However, this time I was looking at a homeless person wrapped in a blanket. By portraying a homeless man in a manner reserved for nobles or saints, I tried to emphasise that everyone deserves respect and care. Human dignity shouldn’t be relative or dependent on socio-economic status’.
The judges commended the work, saying they were “struck by the intensity of the sitter’s gaze and how every texture and surface was rendered in intricate detail”.
We asked Thomas Ganter about his experiences in 2014.
Lisa: Does recognition for your work, such as winning the BP Portrait Award, influence your studio practice?
Thomas: Yes indeed, it influences my practice. Although I am working with the same colours in the same technique, I feel more pressure to gain a result in high quality. So I have to remember my own ideas and vision, I have to accept mistakes and forget anything else.
Lisa: What work have you been most pleased with in 2014?
Thomas: I was most pleased by doing biro portraits and landscapes in my sketchbook.
Lisa: What has been your favourite exhibition this year?
Thomas: I visited the Portrait Gallery and the National Gallery in London several times. But in Frankfurt I am interest in all exhibitions of the Städel Museum, Liebighaus and Schirn Museum.
Lisa: What have you learned this year?
Thomas: To be true to myself and follow my own way.
Lisa: Did you face any creative struggles in 2014 and if so how did you overcome them?
Thomas: I struggled a lot with another portrait painting and had to start several times. But that is typical for my way of working. I have to remember what is really important to me and what is my basic interest – then I overcome it.
Lisa:What are your favourite oil paints to use?
Lisa: What are you looking forward to in 2015?
Thomas: I look forward to working with interesting portrait sitters and doing some educational trips with my pen and sketchbook.