From the moment artist William Utermohlen was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease in 1995, he decided to document his disease. This London based artist started a powerful series of self-portraits. William continued to draw these self-portraits until the year 2000, when he was admitted to a nursing home. This documentation gives a painful understanding of his descent into the Alzheimer’s disease.
The first portrait displayed, was a portrait made in 1967. Here William beautifully displayed a realistic image of himself. As he descended into the disease, you can clearly see, he lost touch with reality. His skills started to deteriorate and he was slowly becoming more abstract in his painting. In his last portrait he scribbled a skull with shadows, showing almost no facial features.
Patricia Utermohlen, Williams wife, wrote in an essay on her husband’s work after his death in 2007:
“In these pictures we see with heart-breaking intensity William’s efforts to explain his altered self, his fears and his sadness.” Patricia recalled, “Even the time he was beginning to be ill, he was always always drawing, every minute of the day. I say he died in 2000, because he died when he couldn’t draw any more. He actually died in 2007, but it wasn’t him by then.”