A portrait of a brooding Heath Ledger, painted shortly before the Australian actor died in January, was voted the most popular painting in Australia’s top art prize for portraiture Thursday.

Ledger, 28, best known for his role as a conflicted gay cowboy in the 2005 movie Brokeback Mountain, died of an accidental overdose of prescription drugs in New York on Jan. 22.

Artist Vincent Fantauzzo, 29, had been friends with Ledger for many years and painted his work in Ledger’s hometown of Perth late last year.

“I wanted it to be dealing with self, your own consciousness and your thoughts,” said Fantauzzo.
The painting features a bare-chested Ledger against a black background, looking straight out of the canvas with two other images of the actor at the sides whispering into his ears.

Fantauzzo’s painting was a finalist in the 2008 Archibald Prize, Australia’s top prize for portraiture, but he missed out on the top award, which went to a self-portrait of an artist with her two children.

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