Glasgow-based Norman Gilbert drew a series of 15 intimate end of life portraits of his wife Pat as he kept vigil for a week at her bedside.
Now the 92-year-old artist is exhibiting the drawings of his wife of 65-years for the first time to help promote honest and open reflections on the issue of death and bereavement.
Pat, a retired art teacher died of a stroke in 2016 having lived with Alzheimer’s for a number of years.
Pat had featured in many of Gilbert’s paintings since they first met in the 1940s at the Glasgow School of Art, some of which will also feature in the exhibition at The Yellow Door Gallery, Dumfries.
Mr Gilbert said: “I always remember Pat said that she liked me painting the children because it gave them a sort of immortality.
“And I hope that I might be doing something like that for her, with these drawings.
“I am delighted the drawings are now to be exhibited for the first time, enabling both public and professional audiences to build a picture of what that week was like for both of us.”
The exhibition is a collaboration between the University of Glasgow’s End of Life Studies Group , The Yellow Door Gallery , the artist and his family, as part of the national Being Human - a festival of the humanities
Dr Mark Gilbert, is the youngest of four sons born to Norman and Pat.
Dr Gilbert, who is also an artist and Research Associate with Medical Humanities program at the School of Medicine, Dalhousie University, Canada, said: “The drawings are a testament to the fluid roles that we are all asked to play at some point in our lives when we care for those we love and fall ill ourselves.
“The drawings turn what was a private experience into something shared. They encourage us to reflect on our own stories and experiences of loss and bereavement.
Like my father Norman, we can engage with these drawings and turn what many find challenging and harrowing into an opportunity for reflection and growth.”
Dr Gilbert along with academics from the Glasgow End of Life Studies group will help open the new exhibition on Wednesday 21 November in Dumfries. They will also discuss the drawings as part of widening the discourse on death, dying and end of life care.
Dr Naomi Richards of the University of Glasgow’s End of Life Studies group and a lecturer at the School of Interdisciplinary Studies said: “The sketches convey considerable raw emotion because of their simplicity and their honesty.
“Showing all the images together for the first time, alongside some of Norman’s painting of his wife earlier in her life, will offer visitors an enormously moving and thought-provoking experience.
“As a research group we believe that the issues of death and dying need to be discussed more openly in society. Art, in all its forms, can offer a unique way of approaching this universal rite of passage. We hope that this exhibition will help promote honest and open reflections on this sensitive topic.”
The organisers would like to highlight the work of local artists in Dumfriesshire and have put out a call through Yellow Door Gallery to either produce new work or have existing work on the theme of ‘origins and endings’ including death and dying to be exhibited in an adjacent room in the gallery during the exhibition.
Based at the University of Glasgow, the End of Life Studies Group is an interdisciplinary group of researchers looking at death and dying in an international context. We aim to illuminate current trends and tensions, and offer insights and evidence to inform end of life policy and practice. Our approach is to bring together the best ideas and perspectives from the social sciences, humanities, public health and clinical disciplines. We aim to work openly and collaboratively.