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Boris Johnson’s mother remembered as ‘astonishing self-taught artist’ by curator

Photo issued by Parkinson's UK of Charlotte Johnson Wahl (centre, seated) posing with residents as part of the Kensington and Chelsea Nurse campaign. Mrs Johnson Wahl, the mother of Prime Minister Boris Johnson, has died aged 79.

By Gavin Cordon and Laura Parnaby, PA

Boris Johnson’s mother has been remembered by the curator of her paintings as an “astonishing self-taught artist” who had an “indomitable spirit”.

Charlotte Johnson Wahl died at the age of 79 on Monday, and tributes have poured in from her curator Nell Butler, Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer, and Conservative MPs.

Mrs Johnson Wahl died “suddenly and peacefully” at St Mary’s Hospital in Paddington, according to a death notice in The Times.

Mr Johnson once described his mother as the “supreme authority” in the family and credited her with instilling in him the equal value of every human life.

Nell Butler, the curator of Mrs Johnson Wahl’s retrospective collection Minding Too Much, said she was a “huge talent who continued to draw and paint almost until the end”.

Ms Butler said: “She was driven to put things on paper.

“It was a language for her, a way of communicating the emotions and colour inside her head.”

“She had an indomitable spirit and never complained, despite the burden of Parkinson’s and the indignities of old age,” she added.

“She was an astonishing, self-taught artist, the mother of four highly successful children, and a loyal friend to all who knew her.”

Ms Butler described her paintings, which included scenes from 9/11 and the King’s Cross fire and some of which were produced during periods of mental illness, as “intensely powerful and raw”.

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said in a tweet: “I’m very sorry to learn of the Prime Minister’s loss.

“My condolences to him and his family.”

Tory MP Conor Burns said: “So sad to hear of the death of Boris Johnson’s mum.

“Thoughts and prayers are with him and the whole of the Johnson clan.”

Fellow Conservative Angela Richardson added: “Sad news for the PM tonight as well as the rest of the Johnson family.

“Thoughts with them all.”

Conservative Party co-chairman Amanda Milling tweeted: “Thinking of Boris Johnson and his family this evening.

“Our thoughts and prayers are with you.”

Mrs Johnson Wahl was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease at the age of 40, and became an active campaigner of the Kensington and Chelsea Support Group for Parkinson’s UK.

The charity’s chief executive Caroline Rassell said Mrs Johnson Wahl’s work “made a real change to the lives of the 145,000 people in the UK living with Parkinson’s and their loved ones” and “for that we could never thank her enough”.

The daughter of the barrister Sir James Fawcett, who was president of the European Commission for Human Rights in the 1970s, Mrs Johnson Wahl married Stanley Johnson in 1963.

The couple had four children, Boris, journalist Rachel, former minister Jo and environmentalist Leo, before they divorced in 1979.

As an artist, she made her name as a portrait painter, her sitters included Joanna Lumley and Jilly Cooper, although throughout her life she painted other subjects, including landscapes.

In the years following her divorce, she refused to accept any money from her former husband, eking out a living by selling paintings, before marrying American professor Nicholas Wahl in 1988 and moving to New York.

She returned to London following his death in 1996 and was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease at the age of 40.

In 2015, she was the subject of a retrospective exhibition at the Mall Galleries in London.

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