Charlotte Johnson Wahl, a well-known portrait painter, passed away “suddenly and peacefully” at St. Mary’s Hospital, Paddington, according to a death notice in The Times of London.
Boris Johnson has previously described his mother as the “supreme authority” in the family. In his speech at the Conservative Party conference in 2019, he said his mother had taught him “the equal importance, the equal dignity, the equal worth of every human being on the planet.”
Sir Keir Starmer, leader of the main opposition Labour Party, was among the first politicians to offer his condolences.
“I’m very sorry to learn of the Prime Minister’s loss. My condolences to him and his family,” he wrote on Twitter.
Our condolences to @BorisJohnson on the passing of his mother Charlotte Johnson Wahl. Parents are the dearest people we have in our lives. Our thoughts are with the Prime Minister’s family. pic.twitter.com/DdX5bTFbuZ
— Russian Embassy, UK (@RussianEmbassy) September 14, 2021
Born in 1942, Johnson Wahl was the daughter of barrister Sir James Fawcett, who was president of the European Commission for Human Rights in the 1970s.
She studied English at Oxford University, but interrupted her education to travel to America with Stanley Johnson, who she married in 1963. She later completed her degree as the first married female undergraduate at her college, Lady Margaret Hall.
The couple had four children—Boris, journalist Rachel, former minister Jo, and environmentalist Leo—before they divorced in 1979.
In the years following her divorce, she refused to accept any money from her former husband, eking out a living by selling paintings. She later recalled she was “very hard up.”
As an artist, she made her name as a portrait painter, but was also known for painting landscapes, among other things.
She told The Telegraph in 2015: “My older sister was terribly clever, as was my younger brother. My parents didn’t know what to do with me so they gave me some paints and I turned out to be good at it. Once I started I couldn’t stop.”
In 1988, she married Nicholas Wahl, an American professor, and moved to New York, but returned to London following his death in 1996.
While in New York, she began painting cityscapes, which were the subject of a sell-out exhibition in 2004.
At the age of 40, she was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease but she never allowed her illness to prevent her painting, steadying herself with a walking frame as she worked.
In 2015, she was the subject of a retrospective exhibition at the Mall Galleries in London.
PA contributed to this report.