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Artist's marathon effort snares prize

Artist's marathon effort snares prize

11th November 1998
The runner sits cross-legged. The face is calm . The face is calm but the eyes are watchful and the arms and legs are taut and gangling - looming large to race even while at rest. The limbs belong to Australian marathon champion Steve Moneghetti and yesterday his portrait entitled Gaunt and glorious - Steve Moneghetti 1998 by Melbourne artist Esther Erlich was named the winner of one of the country's most lucrative portrait prizes.

"The great thing it does is that it highlights my legs and feet. They've always been in the background but this is their due recognition,'' Moneghetti said after the prize announcement yesterday.

The portrait of the runner shared hanging space with 29 other finalists for the $130,000 Doug Moran portrait prize, awarded biennially since 1988. Paintings of the flautist Jane Rutter, in Balinese costume poised to play, Aboriginal activist Patrick Dodson, standing before a eucalypt with storm clouds brewing over Parliament House in the distance, High Court judge Justice Michael Kirby, robed with his judicial colleagues, and loving works of wives and fathers were among contenders for the prize that initially attracted more than 600 entries.

Professor Alistair Rowen, principal of the Edinburgh College of Art, Heriot-Watt University, selected the winner who was made $100,000 richer (the remaining $30,000 was shared between the other finalists).

He commended Erlich's work for ``the elongated limbs ... the eyes intent, the mouth placid and considerate''. He said the portrait seemed to reflect ``the whole man - body and mind''.

Esther Erlich, 43, has been painting for more than 18 years. She works as an artist, book illustrator and also teaches. "I think my heart just jumped out of my chest really ... I'm thrilled,'' she said.

Ms Erlich, who was also a finalist for the Doug Moran prize in 1990, said Moneghetti was a very accommodating subject. ``I wanted to show his determination and focus as a runner ... I wanted to emphasise the arms and legs because he told me when he's really gaunt, that's when he knows he's in top form.''


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