This portrait was taken in the photographer’s London studio and shows Ruth at the threshold between the internal space which has been carefully curated and the wider garden outside. Ruth was born in 1937 and was a pupil at the Foundling Hospital School in Berkhamsted from 1942. She subsequently attended Watford Grammar School and Camden School for Girls, and trained as a nurse at University College Hospital. She later retrained and had a very fulfilling career as a health visitor. She has three daughters and lives in Suffolk.

Foundling Portraits Project

In summer 2021, the Museum commissioned photographic portraits of five former Foundling Hospital pupils: Ruth Amberly, John Caldicott, Lydia Carmichael, Jocelyn Gamble and Henry Grainger. They represent the last generation of pupils who entered the care of the Hospital in the 1930s and 1940s. Reflecting their importance, and to parallel the calibre of the eighteenth-century artists who donated their works to help the children, five exceptional photographers undertook the commission. They were Jillian Edelstein, Mahtab Hussain, David Moore, Ingrid Pollard and Wolfgang Tillmans. A further double portrait of Sylvia Copestake and Pamela McMurtry, by Eileen Perrier, was added the following year.

This portrait, like the other five, is the result of a reflective, enriching and creative partnership, formed between artist and sitter. Each offers a glimpse of the remarkable spirit and vitality that continues to inspire young care-experienced people today.

About the artist

Wolfgang Tillmans is an award-winning German photographer whose diverse body of work is distinguished by observation of his surroundings and an ongoing investigation of the photographic medium’s foundations. His work is in museum collections around the world, including the Museum of Modern Art, New York, Tate and the National Portrait Gallery. Tillmans was the first photographer to win the Turner Prize. He is an Academician of the Royal Academy of Arts, London and has been an Artist Trustee of Tate. He lives in Berlin and London.