Queensland artist Helene Grove has won the 2013 Portia Geach Memorial Award, Australia's top portrait prize for women.

The Trust Company, the award's trustee, made the announcement at the SH Ervin Gallery, in The Rocks area of Sydney, on Thursday night.

Grove, who switched from medicine to art in the 1990s, won the $30,000 prize for her painting Self Portrait Getting On. It depicts her sitting in a blue dress holding a small cat.

The Portia Geach Memorial Award, first awarded in 1965, was established by Florence Kate Geach in memory of her sister, artist Portia Geach.

The award is presented annually to an Australian female artist for the best portrait, painted from life, of some man or woman distinguished in art, letters or the sciences.

Grove, who was previously a Portia Geach finalist in 1995 and 2007, said in a statement she was "humbled and honoured" to win.

"The award plays such a prominent role in promoting the efforts and endeavours of female artists," she said.

The judges were SH Ervin Gallery director Jane Watters, artist and Sydney College of the Arts senior lecturer Dr Lindy Lee, and artist Ben Quilty.

Grove's winning work, painted in acrylic on Belgian linen, was chosen from 58 finalists.

Watters said choosing a winner had been difficult because of the high standard of the finalists.

"This quietly, contemplative work displays great sensitivity and poignancy with the realisation of advancing age. The artist's reductive approach to the process means that every brushstroke is considered and demonstrates her maturity as a painter," she said.

Simon Lewis, The Trust Company's head of philanthropy, said the prize money had increased by 40 per cent in 2013.

An exhibition of all the finalists will run at the SH Ervin Gallery until November 16.

 

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