Old age in art: how one artist sought to record it all…

We invited artists to write in with the background to the works on show in our Prize Exhibition, and had a fantastic response. Here, Nigel Whittaker talks about painting his father, and our attitude to ageing…

I decided to do this series of paintings because in my father’s later years – although still living at home, with the help and support from my immediate family and friends – I became his carer. He became the son and I the parent.

Right up to his death at the age of 92, he would come into the studio every day. He would make the tea for the girls, chat with them, shout at them and generally have a good laugh with them. He loved it.

He would, of course, be inappropriate, annoying, loud (he was deaf) and would often fart loudly whilst the staff we on the phone. But above all, he was funny and loving and I miss him dearly.

It made me consider our attitude to age in the West. There are no old people’s homes in Asia or Africa where age is respected and seen as a source of wisdom and older people are looked after by the extended family.

Nigel Whittaker, 'In the Corner of the morning in the past'
Nigel Whittaker, ‘In the Corner of the morning in the past’


Looking after an ailing parent is incredibly sad and rewarding at the same time, we didn’t always see eye to eye or make each other’s lives easy we could both be irritating and difficult and short tempered.

But all that’s gone now. There are no more positions to defend, points to be scored. The simple truth was I adored him. Throughout my life have respected him, admired him and been grateful for his love.

Reproduced with kind permission from Nigel Whittaker


Visit the Prize Exhibition

Nigel’s work is on show with many more stunning contemporary artworks across a range of media at the current RBSA Prize Exhibition which runs until 23 June. The RBSA stages the show every year, providing an opportunity for some of the most sought-after artists to show their artwork alongside emerging new talent.

With a top prize of £1,000 competition is fierce! Artworks range across jewellery, ceramics, textiles, drawing, painting, and printmaking.

Many works are for sale.

Our Gallery staff will be happy to help you with any queries on your visit to the RBSA.

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