September 14, (THEWILL) – UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson has lost his mother, Charlotte, who died at the age of 79.
The family announced that Charlotte Johnson Wahl, a professional painter, died “suddenly and peacefully” at a London hospital on Monday.
The Prime Minister has described her as the “supreme authority” in his family and credited her with instilling in him the equal value of every human life.
The daughter of the barrister Sir James Fawcett, who was president of the European Commission for Human Rights in the 1970s, Charlotte Johnson Wahl studied English at Oxford University, but interrupted her education to travel to America with Stanley Johnson, whom she married in 1963, and returned to complete her degree as the first married female undergraduate at her college, Lady Margaret Hall.
She and Stanley had four children: Boris, journalist Rachel, former Cabinet minister Jo, and environmentalist Leo, before they divorced in 1979.
It was as a portrait painter that she made her name, but she painted other subjects, including landscapes, throughout her life and in 2015 was the subject of a retrospective exhibition at the Mall Galleries in London.
Describing how the Prime Minister got his name, she said: “When I was three months pregnant, we travelled to Mexico City by Greyhound bus. It was very uncomfortable. I was desperately sick. We stayed with a man called Boris Litwin, who drew me aside and said: ‘You can’t travel back like this. Here are two first-class air tickets.’
“I was so grateful, I said: ‘Whatever the baby is, I shall call it Boris.'”
She later married the American professor Nicholas Wahl in 1988, moved to New York and began painting cityscapes -the subject of a sell-out exhibition in 2004- but was widowed in 1996 and moved back to London.
At the age of 40, she was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, but she never allowed it to stop her painting, steadying herself with a walking frame as she did so.