Art State of Mind

Rainbows for the NHS and Damien Hirst

Isla Phillips-Ewen 11 May 2020 min Read

Since lockdown came into effect in the UK, people have been putting rainbows on display to show love for key-workers. An inherent sign of hope, these rainbows are bringing joy as well as art to the streets. Damien Hirst has even released his very own rainbow in support of the movement. In this article, we will look at Butterfly Rainbow and other initiatives by artists to aid in such unprecedented times.

Rainbows of Solidarity

In case you have not been able to see the joy of the rainbows in windows; here is a selection. All these photos were taken on an iPhone by the author on her daily-exercise. The rainbows are by budding artists in the area of Wandsworth, London.

"London Stands Together"; Rainbows for the NHS in Wandsworth, iPhone photograph
London Stands Together; Rainbows for the NHS in Wandsworth, 2020, author’s photograph.

"After the storm comes a..." ; Rainbows for the NHS in Wandsworth, iPhone photograph
After the storm comes a… ; Rainbows for the NHS in Wandsworth, 2020, author’s photograph.

"With Daffodils"; Rainbows for the NHS in Wandsworth,
With Daffodils; Rainbows for the NHS in Wandsworth, 2020, author’s photograph.

If you would like to see more rainbows in art history you can read all about it here. Daily Art also has a beautiful piece on Sunrises for Hope in Art and Frederic Edwin Church’s painting, Rainy Season in the Tropics.

Butterfly Rainbow by Damien Hirst

Damien Hirst – a prominent Young British Artist (YBAs) – creates sculptures, paintings and drawings. Using his famous butterfly motif Hirst has created his own rainbow and made it freely available.

“I wanted to do something to pay tribute to the wonderful work NHS staff are doing in hospitals around the country. The rainbow is a sign of hope and I think it is brilliant that parents and children are creating their own version and putting them up in the windows of their homes.”

Damien Hirst, 2020.

The work, Butterfly Rainbow, is 6 bands of colourful butterfly wings. An A3 poster is available to download here. Hirst is also selling prints to raise money for NHS charities.

Damien Hirst, Butterfly Rainbow
Damien Hirst, Butterfly Rainbow, 2020 ©Damien Hirst and Science Ltd. Downloadable file of the artwork.

Once you have downloaded your Butterfly Rainbow you can put it in your window to show solidarity for healthcare workers fighting the corona virus. This rainbow will join countless others around the UK that have been demonstrating support in this time of crisis.

Damien Hirst, instagram page snapshot
Snapshot from Damien Hirst’s official instagram. Posted on 20.04.20.

The heart shown above was put in England’s Evening Standard newspaper to allow people to”show some love and hope” in their windows for all the charity workers and community groups.

Damien Hirst, Butterfly Rainbow
Damien Hirst’s newspaper Butterfly Rainbow heart in action on the Thames path near Putney.

Art as a Weapon of Hope, Kindness and Charity

David Hockney, Ipad springtime drawing
David Hockney, Ipad Image of Springtime, 2020.

Hirst is not the only artist creating for the crisis. David Hockney is sharing images of springtime for example. Then there is the famous illustrator Quentin Blake giving away printable greeting cards. Also, last week the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts partnered with Christie’s to sell Warhol’s photographs in support of Covid-19 relief (read more about Warhol here).

“As I know that people have been putting rainbows into their windows to express optimism and solidarity I took the liberty of borrowing them.”

Quentin Blake, 2020

Quentin Blake, Rainbow drawing
Quentin Blake, Rainbow 1, 2020. Available here.

Many of us will also know artists on Instagram doing their bit. For example @zeppelinmoon raising money for NHS charities through downloadable prints and @arewenearlybareyet are creating colouring-in templates to help to release the tensions of lockdown.

ZeppelinMoon snapshot drawing
Snapshot of an instagram highlight from @zeppelinmoon that explains their charity efforts.

To glean more hope from art why not read one of our Art State of Mind pieces: 10 Paintings You Should Know in the Times of Coronavirus, Quarantine Times: These Artists Performed at Their Best Alone, Recommended Quarantine Routine Inspired by Art, and Art Memes in the Time of Quarantine.

Quentin Blake, Rainbow 3
Quentin Blake, Rainbow 3, 2020. Available here.

If you want to read more about rainbows, check out:


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