‘I shall die painting’ – 90-year-old from York produces over 300 paintings
Staff at a York care home were shocked to discover that one of their residents had created over 300 paintings. And they decided to put the work on show at an exhibition for all at the home to see.
York-born professional painter John Hatfield moved into the Chocolate Works – a residential, nursing and dementia care home in Bishopthorpe Road – five years ago.
Unbeknown to staff, John, 90, who is now confined to his bedroom due to ill health, had created over 300 paintings. These ranged from people and mythology to Venice and horses.
John’s passion for painting began in his mid-30s after serving in the military and led him to have a successful career as a professional artist, selling over 5,000 paintings.
Staff at the home spoke of how they were aware of the quality of John’s work but did not know that he had produced so many paintings.
“We all admired the artwork on John’s bedroom walls, but we were in shock when we discovered such an incredible amount of paintings under piles of painting equipment when helping him tidy his room,” said Andrew Jenner, wellbeing assistant at the home. “We felt impelled to showcase his work for all to see.
“Whilst John is unable to leave his bedroom due to his health, we decided to create an art exhibition right outside his bedroom door.”
Staff were inspired by the idea of York Open Studios and worked closely with John’s daughter, also a professional artist, to create their own version of the city wide exhibition for residents and their family and friends to enjoy.
John’s daughter Emma said: “There were hundreds of paintings that we managed to narrow down to 127 – these were the ones dad considered worthy of public display.
“From here, I worked with the wonderful team at the Chocolate Works advising on how best to display the artwork and which paintings complemented one and another – I then helped display the artwork on various boards outside dad’s bedroom.”
John said he was “very flattered” when he heard that staff wanted to create an exhibition of his work.
“Now in my 90th year, I hope to go on painting until the very end and in that sense, mimic Picasso who said, ‘Get me my brushes, I shall die painting!’” He said.
John has long had an interest in horses and over the years attended the York Races.
Paying homage to his love of horses, a range of John’s paintings have also been displayed in the home’s Horse Racing Lounge – an area on the top floor of the Chocolate Works which overlooks York Racecourse.
Due to the sheer number of paintings that were discovered, staff at the care home, alongside John and his daughter Emma, have decided to update the artwork on a seasonal basis and keep the exhibition in John’s corridor as a permanent and ever-evolving feature in the home.
John added: “I hope my art inspires others to be brave, get the brushes out, attack and don’t be tentative.”