Hundreds of NHS frontline workers get ­portraits painted for free by Oxford artist – The Sun

HUNDREDS of NHS frontline workers are having their portraits painted all over the world after one artist sparked the idea to pay tribute to those fighting the coronavirus.

Thomas Croft came up with the idea as a way to give something back to the key workers as well as to keep busy during lockdown.

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The Oxford based artist started the initiative by offering to paint a free portrait of the first NHS worker that contacted him on Instagram.

Tom, 50, who has painted politicians, footballers and members of the royal family, told the Sun: “I’ve always liked telling people's stories by painting them, and at the start of all of this I was in a weird headspace and struggling to work as pushing paint round a canvas seemed pointless.

“When I initially put the post up offering to paint the first NHS staff member who contacted me I had no idea that it would go this far.

“What I would really like to achieve with all of this by the end, is a huge gallery of our incredible hero NHS staff on the frontline for everyone to see.

“I just want it to be a feel good exhibition where we can really say thank you to the NHS staff for all they have done.

“Harriet was the first one to contact me, so we exchanged some messages and I got working on her portrait.

“It really took off, and we had to create a system where I pair up artists to NHS staff so that everyone can have a chance.

“Each portrait is very different, but they are all lovely and emotional tributes to each and every key member in their own personal ways.

“It has grown far beyond anything that I could ever have imagined, but in a way I am not surprised by it.”

Harriet Durkin, an A&E nurse at Manchester Royal Infirmary, was the first NHS member of staff to have her portrait painted, by Tom.

The 25-year-old said: “I entered it not thinking that I would get to do it, it was amazing when he did message me and I didn’t expect to get the portrait so quickly.

“I spoke to him about what I did, and where I work and sent across some pictures of myself in PPE and he talked me through the lighting.

“As well as the portrait of me on my first day of wearing full PPE he also wants to do a second one of me just in normal life.

“When he sent it to me I was so shocked, it was so beautiful. I just didn't know what to expect or how he could recreate it into a portrait.


“It was amazing how similar the two looked and how this person who I hadn't met in person had captured me so well, it was incredible.

“Initially I didn't expect all of the attention, but a few people that I work with also have had their portraits done.

“Obviously in the future the coronavirus is going to be something we look back on, something we will never forget and it's a really difficult time right now.

“Because of this we will be able to look back at all of the portraits and see all of my friends, doctors and nurses all coming together to work really hard and it fills you with emotion.”

Hundreds of other NHS workers have now had their portraits painted by other artists all over the world.

Dr Will Hunter works in the A&E in East Surrey Hospital, and had his portrait painted by artist Jane Clatworthy.

She added: “It was wonderful to meet him and I loved that he chose to take part with such vulnerable honesty.


“Each day they go to fight a war, bereft of weapons with which to fight this particular battle; they go knowing that today there might be somebody they won’t be able to save.

“Beneath the label of hero is a very real person, one being asked to carry a tremendous emotional burden on our behalf and so deserves every drop of love with which we can possibly surround them.”

Karl Ellis, who works in the forensics lab in Oxford, took part and had his portrait painted by artist Tim Benson.

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