2020’s Covid-19 crisis has seen thousands of individuals put their physical and mental health on the line as key workers on the frontlines of the pandemic. A powerful visual tribute to these people, the #portraitsforNHSheroes project was started by artist Tom Croft earlier this year when he began a movement that was picked up by some of the UK’s most talented portrait artists.

Tom originally offered to paint an NHS key worker’s portrait for free when the UK went into lockdown to contain the spread of the COVID-19 virus back in March. He suggested that other artists might want to do the same. The response to the initiative was staggering and Tom personally paired up 500 artists and NHS workers in the first two weeks.

Tom’s goal was to record and share the heroism and fortitude of the frontline workers risking their physical and mental health for our wellbeing, and to find a way to offer his support to these individuals. His offer was posted to Instagram in the form of a video message. Immediately, he was contacted by nurse Harriet Durkin, who had recently recovered from COVID-19 and was about to return to the frontline at the Manchester Royal Infirmary.

Tom Croft portrait of Harriet

Tom Croft’s portrait of Harriet Durkin. Image courtesy of Bloomsbury Publishing.

Tom painted Harriet in full PPE, kicking off what soon became an art project that stretched across the globe. From mural to oil painting, pencil to sculpture, ceramics to mosaics, the #portraitsforNHSheroes has now seen portraits created in every medium imaginable.

Including work by leading artists such as Mary Jane Ansell and Alastair Adams, Portraits for NHS Heroes from Bloomsbury Publishing presents a selection of these remarkable images. All royalties from this book will go to NHS Charities Together to help fund vital projects. This book serves as a form of remembrance and celebration of the NHS key workers who have kept the country going this year.

NHS Charities Together (Charity No. 1186569) will receive a minimum of £2.50 from the sale of each book. With more than 230 NHS Charity members, NHS Charities Together is the umbrella organisation for the country’s NHS charities and is the official national charity partner of the NHS. The charity works to go over and above what core NHS funding can provide in the support of current and future NHS staff, patients and their families.

Earlier this year, The Net Gallery collaborated with Tom and the Contemporary British Portrait Painters (CBPP) to create the Portraits for NHS Heroes Virtual Exhibition at Fitzrovia Chapel in London. The exhibition showcases a small selection of work created for the initiative, all made by members of the CBPP. A number of the paintings featured in the exhibition have been included in the new publication.

Laura Quinn Harris portrait of Liam Halliwell

Laura Quinn Harris’ portrait of Liam Halliwell. Image courtesy of Bloomsbury Publishing.

Article by Toby Buckley.

Portraits for NHS Heroes is now available in hardback from Bloomsbury Caravel for £25.00.

You can gain greater insight into Tom and has work through the virtual tour of his studio on The Net Gallery.

Main image: “Portraits for NHS Heroes” book cover. Image courtesy of Bloomsbury Publishing.