Utermohlen, William (American, 1933-2007)

Blue Skies

Reference Type:
In 1995, when he was 62 years old, artist William Utermohlen was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. One of his responses to the news was to begin a series of compelling self-portraits in an attempt to try and understand what was happening to his mind. His subsequent efforts, in spite of the progression of the disease, were admirable and extremely compelling. Four other self-portraits in the series are included in this database. To see additional images, please visit www.williamutermohlen.org. Blue Skies was the first painting Utermohlen created after learning that he was suffering from Alzheimer’s. He sits hunched over the table in his studio, holding on to it tightly with one hand as if for support; with the other hand he grasps a cup filled with untouched coffee. He seems frozen, his face sadly and thoughtfully pondering his future. Although the setting is his studio there is no evidence of artistic activity, perhaps because he is wondering if he will be able to continue his career under the circumstances. The skylight over his head is angled in contradictory ways, perhaps to imply that his world is no longer stable. The title, Blue Skies, seems in contrast to his future; but it could also reference the traditional association of blue with sadness and melancholy. Notes by Mariann Smith
Mental Disorders
Patient Experience