Self-portraits and Alzheimer's

Reply Thu 26 Oct, 2006 12:14 pm
Portrait of courage - an artist continues doing self-portraits as his Alzheimer's progresses.

New York Times article here


©2006 Galerie Beckel-Odille-Boicos
A self-portrait of William Utermohlen in 1967, top, and 2000, above.

Part of the article here -

Self-Portraits Chronicle a Descent Into Alzheimer's

Published: October 24, 2006
When he learned in 1995 that he had Alzheimer's disease, William Utermohlen, an American artist in London, responded in characteristic fashion.

"From that moment on, he began to try to understand it by painting himself," said his wife, Patricia Utermohlen, a professor of art history.

Mr. Utermohlen's self-portraits are being exhibited through Friday at the New York Academy of Medicine in Manhattan, by the Alzheimer's Association.

The paintings starkly reveal the artist's descent into dementia, as his world began to tilt, perspectives flattened and details melted away. His wife and his doctors said he seemed aware at times that technical flaws had crept into his work, but he could not figure out how to correct them.

"The spatial sense kept slipping, and I think he knew," Professor Utermohlen said. A psychoanalyst wrote that the paintings depicted sadness, anxiety, resignation and feelings of feebleness and shame.

Dr. Bruce Miller, a neurologist at the University of California, San Francisco, who studies artistic creativity in people with brain diseases, said some patients could still produce powerful work.

"Alzheimer's affects the right parietal lobe in particular, which is important for visualizing something internally and then putting it onto a canvas," Dr. Miller said. "The art becomes more abstract, the images are blurrier and vague, more surrealistic. Sometimes there's use of beautiful, subtle color."

Mr. Utermohlen, 73, is now in a nursing home. He no longer paints.

End of clip from article.
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Reply Thu 26 Oct, 2006 12:31 pm
Oh wow!

How interesting.

Thanks for post this, osso. I'm off to read the full article.
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Reply Thu 26 Oct, 2006 12:41 pm
There are several portraits he does as time goes by. Well, many people have done self portraits as time goes by, but these in particular are incredibly touching to me.
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Reply Thu 26 Oct, 2006 06:59 pm
that is amazing.

very touching pictures.
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Reply Thu 26 Oct, 2006 07:02 pm
The 2 b&w sketches from 96 made me want to cry.

I remember alzheimers patients saying things about thier eyes.
Sometimes they were too big, or they didnt belong. They 'hurt' ...

I wonder if that is a common side effect so to speak
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Reply Thu 26 Oct, 2006 07:18 pm
I read that article and was actually going to post those images but then I got sidetracked with that dead dog business and forgot about it.

Thanks for posting, osso.
Reply Sun 31 Aug, 2008 05:00 pm
Going to bump this thread too. The drawings still affect me..
Reply Sun 31 Aug, 2008 08:04 pm
Thank you...I missed it first time round.

Very powerful...
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