Graham Sutherland OM, 'Crucifixion' 1946

Graham Sutherland OM
Crucifixion 1946
Oil on board
support: 908 x 1016 mm frame: 1168 x 1472 x 83 mm
Purchased 1947© Tate

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Graham Sutherland (1903–1980) brought together the tradition of English landscape and recent innovations in Parisian modernism, particularly in the art of Picasso.

Sutherland acknowledged his debt to Guernica, from which he learnt that ‘by a kind of paraphrase of appearances things could be made to look more vital and real’. In the late 1930s, Sutherland made several works based on objects found in the countryside, like tree roots and branches, which metamorphose into figurative presences. Their tortured and anxious appearance suited a world descending into war.

Guernica offered a point of reference when Sutherland was commissioned to record bomb damage. He referred to it again after the war when exploring religious themes, also looking to Grünewald’s Isenheim Altarpiece from which Picasso had made drawings.

In 1947, Sutherland visited the Château Grimaldi in Antibes where Picasso had just made a series of paintings. Sutherland responded immediately with a homage to Picasso based upon the latter’s Joie de Vivre 1946. Shortly after, Sutherland bought a house in the south of France where he became friends with the émigré writer and collector of Cubism, Douglas Cooper and, through him, with Picasso himself.