University of Glasgow academics collaborate on exhibition featuring images of the final days of life

Published: 15 November 2018

A series of drawings by a Scottish artist showing powerful glimpses of death and dying will have their first public exhibition in Scotland.

Portrait of the artist Norman Gilbert

‌A series of drawings by a Scottish artist showing powerful glimpses of death and dying will have their first public exhibition in Scotland.

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


 A painting in the End of Life Exhibition held in Dumfries as part of Being Human 2018 featuring work by artist Norman Gilbert

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.


For more information please contact Aine Allardyce in the University of Glasgow Communications and Public Affairs Office on 0141 330 7126 or email



You can visit the exhibition “Drawing to a Close: An Exhibition of Drawings at the End of Life” between Wednesday 21 November and Saturday 24 November between 10am and 4pm. Tickets for the opening night are available via Eventbrite page.

University of Glasgow End of Life Studies Group

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.

The Yellow Door Gallery

The Yellow Door Gallery is an association of creative practitioners in the visual and fine arts, crafts, and literature. Members include painters, sculptors, print-makers, illustrators, potters, weavers, designers, writers, and poets. The shop and the gallery at The Yellow Door is a vibrant and changing showcase for an impressive range of creative work by local artists.

Being Human – a festival of the humanities  

Being Human is a national forum for public engagement with humanities research. The festival highlights the ways in which the humanities can inspire and enrich our everyday lives, help us to understand ourselves, our relationships with others, and the challenges we face in a changing world. In 2017, Being Human festival featured over 300 events in 51 towns and cities across the UK, alongside a series of international activities – engaging the public with big questions, big debates and innovative activities. The 2018 festival will run from 15-24 November nationally, and the theme is ‘Origins and Endings’


First published: 15 November 2018