New Portrait Competition

Every year we invite young people to create a new portrait that Carl Linnaeus would really like.

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This year, 8-13-year-olds are tasked with creating a portrait of themselves alongside a plant that is special to them or that lives nearby, inspired by the work of John Tyley

John Tyley's Breadfruit Painting
John Tyley's Breadfruit Painting

Think deeply about the plants around you and how they affect your life, and illustrate this in a self-portrait.

This year's competition is inspired by the work of John Tyley, a historic artist in the Caribbean. The Linnean Society recently bought a watercolour painting by John Tyley of a breadfruit tree, shown on this webpage. This painting is special because:

  • The painting includes the image of an enslaved man relaxing beneath a breadfruit tree. It would have been very unusual for a slave to be included in a portrait like this.
  • John Tyley's ancestors were taken from Africa to work in the Caribbean as slaves and John Tyley was a freed slave.
  • The enslaved person in the painting may or may not be John Tyley himself, as a self portrait.
  • The breadfruit tree has deep meaning because it was a plant that was brought into the Caribbean to feed enslaved people so that they could work harder, and yet this portrait shows a slave relaxing underneath it. This makes the portrait very rebellious.
  • John Tyley identified himself as an artist as can been seen by him signing his work.

Your artwork can include plants of any size and the self-portrait can also be any size. You should sign your portrait at the end. It may be useful for you to write about your artwork and send us this information with your portrait.

Important Details (click headings)

How to enter your artwork:

The easiest option is to email a high quality picture of your artwork to learning@linnean.org, and include the following details:

  • The artist's name
  • Age at time of submission
  • The city/town/area where the artist lives - or, if you are entering as a teacher, the school name
  • Optional: A written description of the artwork to add extra information

Please store your original artwork somewhere safe as we may need you to send it to us for high quality scanning if you win the competition. We will reimburse the cost.

  • The artist must be between 8 and 13 years old between the 1st September and the 15th November 2021.
  • The artist can be from anywhere in the world, i.e. not limited to the UK.
  • The artwork must be in a portrait orientation (i.e. not landscape) and a standard paper dimension, minimum A4 (21x29.7cm).
  • The artwork must be signed by the artist.
  • The artwork can include any medium - paints, charcoal, digital art, collages... anything! You could even create a 3D object and enter that as a portrait photo, although we cannot accept video.
  • The artwork must be the artist's own work, do not enter copyrighted art.

  • A judging panel will review all of the entries once the competition has closed.
  • The closing date for entries is the 15th November 2021. We cannot receive entries after this date.
    One overall winner will be selected, with at least three more finalists (two from 8-11 age range and one from 12-13 age range)
  • The winner and finalists will receive physical certificates and prizes, including art and science materials.
  • All artist's who enter artwork will receive a digital certificate sent via email. The Linnean Society will send thanks to all participants after the competition closes.

  • By entering, you give the Linnean Society permission to use your artwork in future media products, as well as share your artwork with all audiences, both online and in person. The Society will give appropriate credit to the entrant in all uses of the image.
  • The first name, age at submission and town/city will remain associated with the artworks in perpetuity (forever), but all other data will be removed related to entrants and submissions after the 1st January 2021, unless otherwise approved.
  • Entries will not be accepted from employees of Linnean Society and their immediate families.
  • The judges decision is final and no correspondence will be entered into regarding the competition outcome.
  • Entry into the competition will be deemed to constitute acceptance of these terms and conditions.

Many historical scientists would choose a plant or object to include in their portraits. These objects would be selected because they were somehow meaningful to the person in the portrait. A clear example of this is Carl Linnaeus - all portraits of Carl include a specific plant, the Linnaea borealis, aka the twin flower. He asked a friend to name the plant after him because he liked it so much, even though it is quite a small and simple plant.

We rely on plants for every aspect of our lives. What plants play an important role in your life, or are meaningful to you?

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