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Love lives on in artist's drawings of wife on deathbed

92-year-old Norman Gilbert's paintings are on display at an exhibition in Dumfries.

By STV News

Published 23 Nov 2018.

An artist is exhibiting end-of-life portraits he drew of his wife in her final days in hospital.

Norman Gilbert, 92, worked on the sketches of Pat as he kept vigil for a week at her bedside in 2016.

The pieces are on display at The Yellow Door Gallery, Dumfries, to help promote honest and open reflections on the issue of death and bereavement.

Mr Gilbert, from Glasgow, said: "I took down the sketch book and I was frightened that I wouldn't be able to draw her.

"I really thought that under these circumstances I won't be able to draw, so I drew her hands, sort of tentatively at first, and it seemed to work.

"My wife was the best thing that ever happened to me."

Pat, a retired art teacher, died from a stroke having lived with Alzheimer's for a number of years.

She had featured in many of Gilbert's paintings since they first met in the 1940s at the Glasgow School of Art.

The exhibition is a collaboration between Glasgow University's End of Life Studies Group, The Yellow Door Gallery, the artist and his family as part of the national festival of humanities, Being Human.

Dr Mark Gilbert, the youngest of four sons born to Norman and Pat and also an artist, 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 Naomi Richards, of Glasgow University'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 exhibition is open until Saturday, November 24.

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