Michael Rothenstein

The Crucifixion

1937

Artist
Michael Rothenstein 1908–1993
Medium
Oil paint on plywood
Dimensions
Support: 1016 x 762 mm
frame: 1203 x 946 x 84 mm
Collection
Tate
Acquisition
Presented by Mr and Mrs Ellis Roberts 1939
Reference
N05046

Not on display

Display caption

This ambitious figure painting was exhibited at Rothenstein's first one-person show at the Matthiesen Gallery in 1938. It was one of several Biblical scenes in modern dress painted at that time, perhaps under the influence of Stanley Spencer. The elongated limbs and expressive faces of the figures are reminiscent of El Greco (1541-1614) who developed a personal mystical style of religious painting using distortion and sharp colour contrasts. From the late 1930s onwards, for a number of contemporary artists, the theme of the Crucifixion increased in significance as a metaphor for human cruelty. It was fully exploited in the aftermath of the Holocaust by artists such as Francis Bacon and Graham Sutherland.

Gallery label, September 2004

Catalogue entry

N05046 THE CRUCIFIXION 1937

Inscr. ‘M. Rothenstein. 1937.’ t.l. and ‘He was a Thief’ and ‘I N R I’ over the crosses.
Oil on hardboard, 40×30 (101·5×76).
Presented by Mr and Mrs Ellis Roberts 1939.
Coll: Purchased by Mr and Mrs Roberts from the artist.
Exh: Matthiesen Gallery, November 1938 (11).

The artist wrote (6 December 1960) that he considered the picture ‘an ex-student effort’. It was one of several Biblical scenes in modern dress painted at that time, perhaps under the influence of Stanley Spencer.

Published in:
Mary Chamot, Dennis Farr and Martin Butlin, The Modern British Paintings, Drawings and Sculpture, London 1964, II

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