Our key workers are immortalised
After all this is over and we can hopefully return to galleries and museums, who is it that you’ll want to see adorning the walls of your favourite institutions? For artist Tom Croft, he’s doing his part to immortalise the NHS workers, who have put self-interest and self-preservation to one side and risked their lives.
After struggling to find motivation during the lockdown and realising other artists were feeling the same, Tom, whose previous clients have included actors, politicians and footballers, took to Instagram to offer a free portrait to the first NHS key worker to respond, and invited other artists to do the same and post their creations under the hashtag #portraitsfornhsheroes.
Tom Croft told Loughran Gallery: “I have been completely overwhelmed by the response to my idea, but knowing the artistic community not remotely surprised. The quality of the free portraits is staggering and I’m really honoured to share them on my story and look forward to seeing them come in each day. It’s also been a great way of getting to discover some amazing new artists I wasn’t aware of and, of course, moving to read and see the stories being told about the NHS key workers’ experiences.
“Portraits seemed rather pointless and helpless in the face of the pandemic. Then I thought about what a portrait is or can be. It can celebrate someone, document, tell the stories of the subjects and preserve them. The NHS key workers seemed like the most deserving people for portraiture at this time. I thought galleries should be showing these heroic selfless health workers for future generations to look back on and to help describe these extraordinary times we’re living through. I am also extremely hopeful there will be a physical exhibition when restrictions are lifted and mass gatherings are allowed again. I’m talking to some top galleries.”
Tom’s portrait is of Harriet Durkin, an A&E nurse at Manchester Royal Infirmary who had just returned to work after recovering from coronavirus.
He said: “Harriet, perhaps unsurprisingly was very generous in allowing me to paint her the way I wanted to. Once in her PPE to set the scene of her daily routine and I’m producing another portrait of her smiling and relaxed at home, to show the other side of who she is. Harriet and people like her don’t do their job for the thanks but I was very pleased to see that Harriet was moved by the painting and the fact someone had taken the time to really consider her and say thank you through the form of painting her portrait.”
The initiative has now connected more than 500 artists, including Emanuel De Sousa and Alastair Adams, with front-line workers and grown worldwide, with versions now in Ireland, Spain, Italy, Belgium, Germany, Denmark, Malaysia, Canada and the US.
The works will soon be available to view in an online gallery. Until then, you can see portraits by De Sousa and Adams below and search under the hashtag #portraitsfornhsheroes on Instagram for more. Artists and NHS workers can also find out more details on Tom’s profile: @tomcroftartist.