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Contemporary British Portrait Painters: CBPP

The CBPP (Contemporary British Portrait Painters) draws together some of Britain’s best contemporary portrait and figurative painters, currently working and exploring what it means to represent people in art. The group is a non-profit collective of artists set up purely to promote this wonderful and intensely fascinating branch of painting.


Portraits in Isolation, Old Fire Station | 2021

Portraits in Isolation is a group show of work by the Contemporary British Portrait Painters produced during the lockdowns of 2020/21. In contrast to the CBPP’s inaugural Perceptions exhibition – which opened with a packed private view and celebrated camaraderie between the artists – Portraits in Isolation reflects a year of working in isolation. The majority of the work is the result of the virtual initiative ‘Life in Lock-down’, where CBPP members swapped images from which to paint reciprocal portraits.

The exhibition includes a special video introduction from Will Gompertz, BBC Arts Editor.

Perceptions at The Space at Cass Art, Islington | 3 – 22 March 2020

The CBPP’s first ever group exhibition, Perceptions consciously bucks the trend of hiring a large expensive gallery space. The exhibition aims to be non-hierarchical by inviting exhibitors to produce work on a panel of fixed size: giving all members, regardless of age or experience, the same space on the wall. 

Portraits for NHS Heroes | Fitzrovia Chapel

The Net Gallery and artist Tom Croft have partnered to create a virtual exhibition showcasing portraits of NHS staff, created during the current crisis. The exhibition incorporates work by 15 artists, all members of the Contemporary British Portrait Painters (CBPP), which represents many of the top portrait painters living and working in the UK. The display, which is exclusively available online, was installed and scanned at Fitzrovia Chapel in London, the former chapel of Middlesex Hospital. The virtual exhibition celebrates frontline workers through portraiture and will raise funds for NHS Charities Together, to help support to the ongoing COVID-19 relief effort.


In 2018, artist Ian Goldsmith sent a message to a group of friends and contacts on Instagram pondering the fact that there was, to his knowledge, as yet no independent society to celebrate and give voice to contemporary British portraiture and figurative painting. What started out as a general enquiry got an almost unanimously enthusiastic response from its recipients – and soon afterwards a new collective, Contemporary British Portrait Painters (CBPP for short) was born. 

The CBPP as a group seeks to find a more contemporary definition of portraiture which reflects our modern society in its diversity, and celebrates the artists’ ability to interpret their subject without always being reliant on monetary constraints. As a non-profit making group, the CBPP does not gear itself towards the purely commercial – celebrating instead the individual voices of its members. The group itself is diverse, too, featuring an almost equal split between male and female – plus, due to a quick membership application process which is open to all living in the UK, the age split is incredibly wide, featuring recent graduates alongside painters with already long and distinguished careers. It’s not a closed shop.

The interest in figurative painting couldn’t be higher, from TV shows on Sky to the BP Portrait prize, yet the landscape is changing. In 2019, one judge of the BP portrait competition, alongside other leading artists spoke out, calling for the competition to end its connection with BP. Where profit and entertainment take the lead, the art as a consequence, will fall into the background. The CBPP want to put the art at the front, at all times. 

Contemporary British Portrait Painters: CBPP | www.thecbpp.org