Artist Craig Ruddy dies aged 53

Artist Craig Ruddy, who won the Archibald Prize with his striking portrait of actor David Gulpilil, has died aged 53 after contracting COVID-19.

He died on Tuesday at his home in Bryon Bay with his partner, actor Roberto Mezo Mont, at his side.

“It is with the heaviest of tender hearts we let you know that last night Craig left his body peacefully at home in Roberto’s arms,” said a post on his Facebook page.

“We have lost the most divine human that gave so much to our communities, the creativity, the inspiration, the pure love and plenty of dance.”

In 2004 Ruddy won both the Archibald and the Packing Room Prize for his large-scale Two Worlds picture of Gulpilil, who died last year aged 68.

The portrait became the subject of a legal battle after artist Tony Johansen, another Archibald Prize entrant, took issue with the Art Gallery of NSW, saying Ruddy’s work was not eligible as it was “not a painting but a drawing”.

The court heard that Ruddy had used acrylic paint, charcoal, pencil, crayons, pastels and varnish in the work.

NSW Supreme Court Justice John Hamilton dismissed the claim, saying it was “impossible on any objective basis to exclude the portrait from the category of a work which has been ‘painted’.”

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