Painting of breastfeeding mother heading to Sunderland as part of National Portrait Gallery exhibition

Breech! by Benjamin Sullivan which is on the shortlist for the BP Portrait Award 2017, which features an all-female line-up of sitters. Picture by Benjamin Sullivan/National Portrait Gallery/PA Wire
Breech! by Benjamin Sullivan which is on the shortlist for the BP Portrait Award 2017, which features an all-female line-up of sitters. Picture by Benjamin Sullivan/National Portrait Gallery/PA Wire

A painting of a mother breastfeeding her baby daughter has been shortlisted for the BP Portrait Award 2017 which this year features an all-female line-up of sitters.

The National Portrait Gallery has announced that Benjamin Sullivan, Thomas Ehretsmann, and Antony Williams are in contention for the prestigious first prize, which carries with it a sum of £30,000 for the winning entry, as well as a gallery commission worth £5,000.

The exhibition, which will tour to Sunderland as well as Exeter and Edinburgh, will first go on show at the National Portrait Gallery from June 22 to September 24.

Sullivan's portrait, Breech!, captures his wife Virginia breastfeeding their eight-month-old daughter Edith.

Ehretsmann's Double Portrait shows his wife Caroline at eight months' pregnant on a walk in the park.

Williams has painted Emma, which shows a model who has sat for him for the past 11 years and has become a close friend.

All three artists have been chosen previously for BP Portrait Award exhibitions, but this is the first time Ehretsmann and Williams have been shortlisted for first prize.

Sullivan won third prize last year for Hugo, his portrait of the poet Hugo Williams.

The winner of the second prize will receive £10,000 and the third prize offers £8,000, with the results announced on June 20.

Entrants were invited to upload a photo of their portrait to the award website for judges to select which works they would like to see in person and then 53 were chosen to make up the BP Portrait Award 2017 exhibition, which was whittled down to the shortlist of three.

Dr Nicholas Cullinan, chairman of the judges and director of the National Portrait Gallery, London, said: "It is always an enormous privilege to chair the judging panel of the BP Portrait Award and to see at first hand the extraordinary depth and breadth of contemporary portrait painting internationally.

"I am delighted with this year's shortlist and the final selection of works for the exhibition, all of which provoked an immediate response from the judges, whether that be a reaction to the skill displayed by a particular artist, or a more visceral connection with the sitter, subject matter or the mood conveyed."

There were 2,580 entries in total from 87 countries, including 1,214 portraits from the UK.

A BP Travel Award 2017 winner will be chosen from the 53 exhibited works, an annual award of £6,000 which allows artists to experience working in a different environment on a project related to portraiture and then show the work in the following year's exhibition.

A separate competition, the BP Young Artist Award, will give £7,000 to an artist aged between 18 and 30.