Sky Arts celebrates a decade of Portrait Artist of the Year with Dame Judi Dench, Dr Jane Goodall, DBE, and Sir Lenny Henry

Friday 8 September 2023

  • The tenth series will launch with a special feature-length episode in which previous series winners return to compete for the title of “Portrait Artist of the Decade”. 
  • Fans can join the celebration in-person and online as Sir Lenny Henry returns as a celebrity sitter at a live record-breaking portrait painting event on 30th September at Lindley Hall in London.

Sky Arts is set to paint an impressive picture this autumn with the return of the nation’s favourite art competition, Portrait Artist of the Year. The series will take up residency on Sky Arts and Freeview for its tenth series on Wednesday 4th October with hosts Dame Joan Bakewell and Stephen Mangan.  

This year’s series will begin with a special Portrait Artist of the Decade episode, which will see the winners of past series of Portrait Artist of the Year return once more to Battersea Arts Centre to paint iconic actress, Dame Judi Dench. The 90-minute special will celebrate one of the world’s most acclaimed actors and delve into the stories of the previous winners and their careers since they won. 

Budding artists keen to join the celebrations for the show’s tenth birthday are also invited to take part in a mass portrait painting event on 30th September where Sky Arts will attempt to set an official GUINNESS WORLD RECORDS™ title for the most people painting online and in a single venue simultaneously, with national treasure Sir Lenny Henry as the sitter. The event will take place at Lindley Hall in London, with 200 free spaces available for amateur and professional artists to join the celebration in-person. The session will also be livestreamed for fans across the world to join the record attempt online and create their own portrait of the actor, writer and comedian. Lenny’s portrait by Morag Caister, last year’s Portrait Artist winner, is currently on display in the newly reopened National Portrait Gallery. 

Sir Lenny Henry said: “I loved sitting for Portrait Artist of the Year in 2022 and it was a real honour to take part. This year is a little different, but no less momentous. I’m so grateful for the chance to be invited back to play my part in what will hopefully be a new world record for the history books!” 

Artists of all ages and abilities can sign up to paint Sir Lenny Henry and break the world record here

This year’s series of Portrait Artist of the Year will see aspiring artists from across the UK compete to win the title for 2023, with an array of celebrity sitters from the worlds of stage, screen, sport, literature, and politics sitting for portraits. The artists will battle it out once again to impress expert judges Tai Shan Schierenberg, Kathleen Soriano and Kate Bryan across seven heats.  

Taking the sitter’s chair this year are: Emma Freud (Broadcaster), Richard Curtis (Screenwriter), Fleur East (Singer), Ainsley Harriott (Chef/television personality), Rory Stewart (President of “Give Directly” and author), Rob Delaney (Comedian), Jay Rayner (Critic), Nihal Arthanayake (Presenter), Susanna Reid (Presenter), Phillipa Perry (Author), Alan Titchmarsh (Presenter), Sue Barker (Sports personality/presenter), Josh Widdecombe (Comedian), Nicky Spence (Opera Singer), Shirley Ballas (Dancer), Vanessa Kingori (Conde Nast Chief Business Officer), Mishal Hussain (Presenter), Nigel Havers (Actor), Lenny Rush (Actor), Joe Sugg (writer and YouTube personality) and Daryl McCormack (Actor).  

Each heat winner will go on to paint British pop icon Emma Bunton in the semi-final and the three finalists will battle it out to take home the title, painting broadcasting legend and Portrait Artist of the Year royalty, Dame Joan Bakewell

This year’s winner will receive a £10,000 commission to create a portrait of world-renowned conservationist Dr Jane Goodall, DBE, Founder of the Jane Goodall Institute & UN Messenger of Peace, which will be exhibited at the National Portrait Gallery in December.  

Phil Edgar-Jones, Director of Sky Arts, said: 

“We are tremendously proud that over 10 years Portrait Artist of the Year has become the pre-eminent painting prize in the UK, and that so many of the wonderfully talented artists who’ve appeared on the programme have gone on to have such glittering careers in portraiture. That plus a range of famous faces captured on canvas make this a true jewel in the Sky Arts crown.” 

Portrait Artist of the Year is commissioned by Phil Edgar-Jones, Director of Sky Arts, for Zai Bennett, MD of Content UK&I. The Commissioning Editor for Sky is Benedetta Pinelli. Portrait Artist of the Year is produced by Storyvault Films. The Series Editor is Nelda Sale, the Series Director is Southan Morris and the Series Director of Production is David Buckley. Executive producers are Danielle Graham, Samantha Richards and Stuart Prebble.   

Chairman of Storyvault Films, Stuart Prebble said, “We’re very proud of everything our series has delivered over ten years for Sky Arts and especially for the hundreds of brilliant and inspiring artists who’ve featured in it.  And what better way to celebrate our tenth anniversary than with Dame Joan Bakewell, Dame Judi Dench and Dr Jane Goodall, DBE as our sitters?”  

Portrait Artist of the Decade airs on Sky Arts, Freeview and NOW on 4th October 

Portrait Artist of the Year airs weekly on Sky Arts, Freeview and NOW from 11th October 

 For more information on Portrait Artist of the Year/Portrait Artist of the Decade: /

For more information on the record-breaking painting event: / /