In March 2020 the UK government locked the country down to restrict the spread of the Covid-19 virus.
Artist Thomas Croft had an idea.
"Who should line the walls of galleries and have future generations look back on as the people who really made a difference and stepped up, in our latest darkest hour. The people who put self interest and self preservation to one side and literally risked their lives knowingly on a daily basis for our well being. The NHS workers. Absolutely." Thomas Croft
Thomas posted on Instagram that he would like to paint a free portrait to the first NHS Key Worker to contact him. He also suggested that other portrait artists might like to offer one too. Artists were asked to post their portraits under the hashtag #portraitsfornhsheroes so everyone could be seen online in a virtual exhibition. Then at the end of the pandemic, when restrictions are lifted and mass gatherings are allowed again, the idea is to have a wonderful exhibition to celebrate and say thank you, to the heroes of the NHS. Hopefully this part will happen in time…
"This project is very close to home for me as my wife is a doctor on the frontline in central London. It makes me incredibly proud that two such artist's to take up the challenge were our very own Jane Clatworthy and Emma-Leone Palmer. Both portraits received high acclaim and deservedly so." L Harrison - Founder Hatch Limited Editions
Here in their own words is the experience of that process.
Jane Clatworthy "It was a privilege to be part of the project #portraitsfornhsheroes that the artist Tom Croft so warm-heartedly initiated. Artists across the UK volunteered to paint the portraits of NHS key workers as a gesture of thanks for all the unwavering care and dedication that also puts them so much at personal risk."
"Both doctors had been proposed by their friends and family and I was delighted they agreed to take part. I chatted with both via Zoom as I didn’t want to paint from a reference image without actually meeting them first. I personally think it's important to make a connection before attempting a portrait. I set only one parameter for the project, no broad grins, but left everything else up to them. They each sent me several images, I chose several I’d be very happy to paint and then asked them to make the final choice."
"In all honesty, I was moved to tears, and very humbled by the selection of images that both doctors sent through to me. They responded with tremendous authenticity, both choosing to reveal the raw emotions this pandemic was asking of them. They showed the human beneath the hero label. Will chose an image that spoke to how he was feeling at the time we spoke, Georgina chose to share how she tries to decompress after her shift in the ICU. It was left to me as the painter to capture the gravity of the moment, to honour their vulnerability and the trust they had in sharing it with me."
The second image - Dr Georgina Keogh also appears in an article in The Economist
Dr Will Hunter
Dr Georgina Keogh
Emma-Leone Palmer. "It was an honour to be one of the artists to paint a portrait for NHS Heroes. As the weeks of lock down went on I felt increasingly useless in the fight against this virus when daily so many on the frontline are putting themselves at risk. This wonderful initiative was a way us artists could hopefully make someone’s day by painting their portrait and therefore recognising their courageous and selfless efforts by leaving a mark on history through art"
"Kat, a Covid ward nurse from Cardiff, contacted me after I posted the ‘green board’ on instagram. A number of video conversations followed, it was amongst the hellish stories and obvious fatigue that I became captivated by her compassion and good humour. From the selfies she subsequently sent, it was this positivity and kindness that became the emphasis for her portrait."
"Painting an NHS worker was an emotional experience and one for which I will always feel deeply privileged. Thank you NHS"
Kat Hopkirk 21years old - Student Nurse - Covid Ward - Cardiff