Melbourne artist Louise Hearman said things are tough for Australian artists and winning the Archibald would allow her to keep working in the country.
Archibald winner Louise Hearman said it was particularly tough for artists in Australia to make a living as more than 100 people outside the Art Gallery of NSW protested to keep the Sydney College of the Arts open.
The Melbourne artist, who won the $150,000 Moran Prize in 2014 was awarded the $100,000 Archibald for her portrait of comedian Barry Humphries by the vice-president of trustees, merchant banker Mark Nelson, at the Art Gallery of NSW on Friday.
"It's sad that so much great talent in Australia has to leave this country to make a living from what they do," Hearman said while accepting her award.
"I love Australia. I want to stay here, I want to work here and this prize will really help me with that."
Outside the gallery before the announcement, protesters were joined by senior federal Labor MP Anthony Albanese, who blasted The University of Sydney over its proposal to shut down its visual arts school and merge it with UNSW Arts and Design School in Paddington.
Hearman, who started painting over 30 years ago at the age of 14, said things had been particularly tough for artists in Australia in recent times as art collectors looked overseas.
"The last three years have been really bad because a lot of people have been selling big collections on the secondary market and a lot of people are looking overseas now to buy art rather than looking at Australian art," Hearman told the media.
"Most Australian artists, their income is down 80 per cent and a lot of people don't earn that much money anyway. That leaves them in a pretty bad position, so prizes like this are fantastic. They keep you going."
Hearman was chosen from 51 finalists out of 830 entries.
The $50,000 Wynne landscape painting or sculpture prize was awarded to the five Ken sisters from Amata in the APY Lands, and the $40,000 Sulman Prize for subject, genre painting or mural painting went to Esther Stewart.