Three Ages of Terry portrait by Curtis Holder

The National Portrait Gallery has announced its commission of a posthumous portrait of Terry Higgins, one of the first people in the UK to die of an AIDS-related illness.
The portrait has been supported by Terrence Higgins Trust – the first charity in the UK to be set up in response to the HIV epidemic – and is being unveiled in their 40th year to mark what would have been Terry’s 78th birthday.
Terry Higgins – Three Ages of Terry (2023) is drawn in coloured pencil by artist Curtis Holder. The multi-layered drawing shows Terry Higgins as a teenager in the navy, a young man and a middle-aged man in the weeks just before his death.
The portrait was drawn from personal photographs and memories shared by his partner and one of the founding members of Terrence Higgins Trust, Rupert Whitaker OBE. The palette is limited to hues of mostly red, a reference to the now familiar and powerful symbol of the red ribbon, the universal symbol of awareness and support for people living with HIV.


Terry Higgins left his Welsh hometown, Haverfordwest at 18 years old and moved to London. By day, he worked as a reporter in the House of Commons, and by night, he was a bartender and DJ. Higgins collapsed in Heaven nightclub in Soho while at work in 1982, and just a few months later, he died at St Thomas’ hospital, London, on 4 July, aged 37.

Established by Whitaker and Terry’s close friend Martyn Butler OBE, Terrence Higgins Trust has continually fought for change since Terry’s death and ultimately saved countless lives by raising awareness of the virus and helping to destigmatise HIV.
This is the first portrait of Terry Higgins and the first work by Curtis Holder to enter the National Portrait Gallery’s Collection. Terry Higgins – Three Ages of Terry will be displayed in the Making the Modern World gallery, a space dedicated to some the most important figures of the 20th century, from 22 June 2023.

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Meeting Terry was life-changing – I will be forever thankful for his kindness and thoughtfulness.

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Rupert Whitaker

Dr. Nicholas Cullinan, Director at National Portrait Gallery, said: 'I am deeply moved by this portrait of Terry, which depicts him in all his gentleness and dignity. Thank you to Terrence Higgins Trust and Curtis Holder for making this beautiful portrait a reality, enabling us to tell Terry’s important story in our transformed Gallery. I very much look forward to sharing it with our visitors from 22 June.'
Richard Angell, Chief Executive at Terrence Higgins Trust, said: 'When Terry Higgins died 40 years ago, there was not even a name for the virus let alone a test. He could have easily been forgotten like so many others who died of AIDS-related illnesses at the start of the HIV epidemic.

'However, his partner Rupert Whitaker and their friend Martyn Butler were determined not to let that happen by establishing a charity in his name which would go on to save countless lives. That’s why it feels absolutely right that Curtis Holder’s stunning portrait of Terry is part of the National Portrait Gallery’s latest collection honouring some of the most important figures of the 20th century.

'Terry’s death sparked a movement that changed the course of history and his incredible legacy is still felt today. We’re determined to see the UK become the very first country in the world to end new HIV cases by 2030 and to do it in Terry’s name.'
Rupert Whitaker OBE, co-founder of Terrence Higgins Trust, said: 'Meeting Terry was life-changing – I will be forever thankful for the kindness and thoughtfulness that he showed me and everyone whose life he touched. Through setting up Terrence Higgins Trust in response to the emerging HIV-pandemic, not only has the charity provided crucial prevention-work around HIV and supported those of us who have been diagnosed with it over these past four decades, it has also kept Terry’s memory alive.

'It’s been an honour and a pleasure to work with Curtis Holder and the National Portrait Gallery on developing this wonderful image of Terry. The legacy of Terry and of Terrence Higgins Trust is something that none of us could have ever imagined in 1982; I’m so grateful for everything that has been achieved in Terry’s name.'
Artist Curtis Holder said: 'The drawing is a celebration of Terry; his humanity, physicality and sexuality. The time I spent with his partner Rupert gave me a real sense of those facets of him. I came to appreciate the man behind the name; his passions, strengths and vulnerabilities became very real.

'I wanted this portrait to offer the viewer a snapshot of the stages of his short and impactful life, and to show how those individual stages informed the whole.'