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COVID-19: artist paints portraits of front-line nurses

Portrait artist aimed to create a lasting reminder of NHS staff's work during the pandemic
Picture of artist Max Denison-Pender

Max Denison-Pender wanted to create a lasting reminder of NHS staff's work during the pandemic by painting some of their portraits

Debbie Scott

Six nurses and a paramedic who have been working during the COVID-19 pandemic have had their portraits painted in a series the artist calls When the Mask Comes Off.

Two of the nurses, intensive care nurse Luis Pitarma and ward sister Jenny McGee, cared for prime minister Boris Johnson when he was in the intensive care unit (ICU) at St Thomas Hospital in London with COVID-19.

Max Denison-Pender wanted to create a lasting reminder of NHS staff's work during the pandemic by painting some of their portraits

Picture of artist Max Denison-Pender
Max Denison-Pender painted seven portraits as part of his When the Mask Comes Off series

Picture of nurse Debbie Scott, a COVID-19 survivor who helped to set up the Nightingale Hospital
Debbie Scott

Six nurses and a paramedic who have been working during the COVID-19 pandemic have had their portraits painted in a series the artist calls When the Mask Comes Off.

Two of the nurses, intensive care nurse Luis Pitarma and ward sister Jenny McGee, cared for prime minister Boris Johnson when he was in the intensive care unit (ICU) at St Thomas’ Hospital in London with COVID-19.

Another nurse, Debbie Scott, has worked in the profession for 17 years and left Guy’s and St Thomas’ to help set up the Nightingale Hospital, a critical care temporary hospital. She is also a COVID-19 survivor. 

The other nurses – Yumna Sali, Lowell Vingno and Pauline Nathan – all work for Guy’s and St Thomas’.

The paramedic who was painted, Ramone Augustus, has worked for the London Ambulance Service for ten years.

Classically trained artist Max Denison-Pender painted the nurses at his London studio with ‘strict social distancing’.

Picture of intensive care nurse Luis Pitarma
Luis Pitarma

'A comfort to know these nurses have names, feeling and public recognition'

Mr Denison-Pender said: ‘It is sobering to think how many lives depend on the care of strangers, and a comfort to know these nurses have names, feelings and public recognition.

‘The series is intended to stand as a lasting reminder of the new front line in a war against a faceless enemy.’

Mr Denison-Pender had been due to be one of the artists in residence with Team GB for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games before it was postponed due to the pandemic.

Ms McGee, who is from New Zealand, and Mr Pitarma, from Portugal, were thanked by the prime minister for saving his life. They say media coverage following his remarks has helped bring more recognition for the nursing profession.

Other nurses have been painted as part of a national project called #PortraitsforNHSHeroes, which is on Instagram and Twitter.

The initiative was started by Oxford-based portrait artist Thomas Croft with the aim of artists from across the world being matched to a nominated NHS key worker during the pandemic to produce their portrait.

View our COVID-19 resource centre


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