Portraits for NHS Heroes
The Net Gallery presents a virtual exhibition of 15 frontline workers, painted by leading portrait artists
PORTRAITS FOR NHS HEROES
The Net Gallery and artist Tom Croft have partnered to create a virtual exhibition showcasing portraits of NHS staff, created during the current crisis. The exhibition incorporates work by 15 artists, all members of the Contemporary British Portrait Painters (CBPP), which represents many of the top portrait painters living and working in the UK. The display, which is exclusively available online, was installed and scanned at Fitzrovia Chapel in London, the former chapel of Middlesex Hospital. The virtual exhibition celebrates frontline workers through portraiture and will raise funds for NHS Charities Together, to help support to the ongoing COVID-19 relief effort.
COVID-19: Social Distancing Statement
The Net Gallery and Fitzrovia Chapel have created this exhibition observing social distancing guidelines at all times. The artwork featured in the online exhibition was created using high-quality fine art prints produced in a closed environment local to the venue, and the exhibition was installed and scanned by a small team, wearing masks and gloves.
HOW CAN YOU HELP?
COVID-19 URGENT APPEAL
Some of the funding is also going towards helping partnerships outside hospitals, such as hospices, community healthcare and social care, making sure patients leaving hospital have access to the care they need to recover.
In the longer term it will also fund programmes to help staff and volunteers recover fully once the crisis has abated, reducing the long-term impact on them and the people they care about.
STATEMENT: TOM CROFT
“Probably like a lot of people not working on the front line of the pandemic, I felt pretty useless and painting seemed rather irrelevant in the scheme of things. I was struggling to concentrate of my work, so I put a post out on social media offering a free portrait to the first NHS key worker to contact me, and suggested other portrait artists might like to do the same. I asked everyone to post their portraits under the hashtag #portraitsfornhsheroes so everyone can see the results.
“This felt like a way of saying thank you and giving them something to possibly look forward to in these exceptionally challenging times. It was also a way of documenting their personal stories and celebrating them through portraiture. It has helped me to remember the power of portraiture and to refocus on my work. The response has been completely overwhelming, both of the portrait artists and NHS key workers wanting to get involved. The initiative has now grown to include health care workers from all around the world.
“There will be a big online exhibition in the future to show case as many of the works as possible and I hope there will be a big physical exhibition too when restrictions are lifted and mass gatherings are allowed again.
“The Contemporary British Portrait Painters (CBPP) is a group of some of the best portrait artists working in Britain today and I feel very lucky to be part of the collective. This exhibition is a small focused collection of works that tell personal stories both uplifting and tragic.
I am very thankful to The Net Gallery for putting this show together so quickly and in such challenging circumstances. Please take the time to view and read about each individual and their portrait.” Tom Croft
EXHIBITION HIGHLIGHTS VIDEO
VIDEO INTERVIEW WITH TOM CROFT
ABOUT CBPP & THE FEATURED ARTISTS
CBPP (Contemporary British Portrait Painters) draws together some of Britain’s best contemporary portrait and figurative painters, currently working and exploring what it means to represent people in art. The group is a non-profit collective of artists set up purely to promote this wonderful and intensely fascinating branch of painting.
“Doctor Alex Ward is a GP in the South of England. He was nominated for a portrait by his brother and, because it was a surprise, I had limited photo reference to work from. I chose the reference I did (which was from a “snap” taken at a birthday party) because I liked how the sunlight burst on to the side of his face.” – Clive Bryant
“This is a portrait of Seonaid who is working as a midwife right now while also being pregnant. It’s so strange and humbling to think of folk who are THAT selfless in their day-to-day lives. Inspiring in the true sense of the word.” – Michael James Monaghan
“It was a real pleasure and honour to paint Karl Ellis for #portraitsfornhsheroes. Karl works for the NHS in Oxford. I felt that it was extremely important to recognise the crucial and often dangerous work that NHS workers are undertaking on our behalf. Painting Karl’s portrait was my way of saying thank you.” – Tim Benson
“Harriet Durkin is an A & E nurse working at Manchester Royal Infirmary. She was recovering from Covid-19 and was about to start back on nightshifts when she messaged me about the free portrait. I painted her in her PPE gear to set the scene and establish the times we are living through. Her mask both protects, hopefully, but also acts as a barrier to the human interaction we normally have. I understand that patients find the mask an additional stress in an already scary situation, as expressions are harder to read. Harriet appears to be waving at us but I also felt it could reflect the need for social distancing at the moment.
“I am painting a second portrait of Harriet, relaxed and smiling at home, to show this side of her too. I understand the process of having the portrait painted has given Harriet a tiny glimmer of joy and something to look forward to in the most challenging of times. It’s also a small sign of my gratitude to the work she does on our behalf.” – Tom Croft
Quote from the Subject:
“I have been seconded from my normal role in the organisation to work clinically with the infection, prevention and control teams; including patient care and staff support.
“The Portraits Project has captured the honesty, rawness and reality of the NHS during the pandemic. Ordinary people doing their jobs – suddenly thrust into the focus and spotlight. My portrait captured so much of what that day (26/03/20 08:55hrs) was about – wanting to show strength, positivity and the person behind the FFP3 respirator mask.” – Jo Habben
“The professionalism, compassion and devotion that NHS staff demonstrate on a ‘normal’ working day is exemplary but during the pandemic they have raised the bar even further still. I feel honoured to be involved with this project and to have the opportunity to give thanks.” – Angela Bell
Quote from the Subject:
“I am a newly qualified nurse and love my job, but the past few months have been really tough. The #portraitsfornhsheroes project is such a lovely thing and it’s so kind of all the artists that have got involved. Peter’s portrait of me is absolutely amazing, I LOVE it!” – Steph Hedge
“I did it over the winter and it stars Emily Housman and Funmi Tayo, colleagues in the maternity unit at the James Paget University Hospital in Norfolk. It’s pre-virus but still a pretty angry painting – angry that these guys’ idealism and willingness to help others is being systematically plundered like any other natural resource. Obviously the issue is well to the fore now, but I think what’s wanted isn’t so much applause as it is decent pay, decent staffing levels, and above all, a decent party in government to reverse the slow dissolution of the NHS.” – Thomas Leveritt
“Sharon Stone is a senior sister at Williton Hospital community and stroke rehabilitation unit. Sharon was nominated by Dr Clare Nettleton for her strong leadership and warmth. Sharon is pleased to be able to deliver the care that individuals deserve and do so with a sense of pride, and fulfilment. Despite huge challenges recently, she sees nursing as ‘the best job in the world’.
“In the portrait I wanted to create a pose and expression that best communicates a reflective determination and hope for the future.
“Sharon was thrilled by the portrait, which had extra resonance as she received it on 12th May, which is National Nurses Day. She said her dad would be ‘proud!’” – Peter Monkman
“I was linked with ICU nurse Nina for the portrait project. I asked Nina to send me a photo in natural light, outdoors with strong shadows. My aim was to paint a bright, colourful and optimistic painting full of energy – something Nina could enjoy having.” – Steven Higginson
“I was really keen to be part of this project as my mum was a nurse for the NHS for most of her life” – Patrick Morales-Lee
Quote from the Subject:
“The main point of this project for me is to document this piece of history” – Dr Matt May
“I saw @tomcroftartist had started this project and I just wanted to give something back that might make someone who is risking their life in very uncertain times have, at the very least, something else to think of, as a small gesture of goodwill.” – James Crowther
Quote from the Subject:
“It was really great to be included in the #portraitsforhhsheroes and brought some creative excitement in a pretty bleak time. It’s a wonderful record of the work we have been doing at this time and I am proud to see the NHS logo represented on my portrait. I have also enjoyed following the international community created around #portraitsforhhsheroes and have loved seeing the wonderful healthcare provides from around the world.” – Scarlett Brannigan
Quote from the Subject:
“It’s been a humbling experience being part of the NHS through the pandemic, the support from the public has been amazing. The #portraitsfornhsheroes is a great example of some of the support we have received. Thank you for such an amazing portrait.”
– Darren Neeld
“Tom Croft’s idea is a fantastic way for artists to pay tribute to the incredible effort and sacrifice our NHS staff are making every day. I just had to be involved in this wonderful project!
“This is Izzy, a staff nurse at John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford. She shared a number of photos with me and took the one I based the painting on straight after a long shift. The emotion and sense of being physically and emotionally drained really spoke to me and I wanted to capture this.
“Just my way of paying tribute to the incredible work our NHS staff do every day.” – Danny Howes
Quote from the Subject:
“I started my nursing career in February 2020 during the worsening Covid-19 crisis. My godfather and a friend saw Tom Croft’s #portraitsfornhsheroes project and decided to nominate me. I never imagined having my portrait painted as an NHS nurse during a pandemic, but Danny Howes had a clear idea to create my portrait using photos I took having just completed a 13 hour shift in full PPE. When I saw the finished painting I was struck by the emotion Danny had captured, reflecting the pressures that nurses and the NHS are under. I want to say a massive thank you to Danny for the portrait and to Tom for starting the project – I will cherish this painting forever.”
– Izzy Speight
ABOUT FITZROVIA CHAPEL
The Grade II listed Fitzrovia Chapel, once the chapel of the former Middlesex Hospital and now beautifully preserved and restored, is a stunning hidden gem in the heart of London. The Fitzrovia Chapel Foundation is entrusted with the conservation, restoration, maintenance, and preservation of the building and its contents. They are responsible for promoting its place in local history, heritage, and culture. The chapel is used for weddings, exhibitions, shows and celebrations, and is open each Wednesday for a free public open day (not during the Covid-19 restrictions).