Walter Hussey first commissioned Sutherland in February 1944 when he asked him to paint a version of the Agony in the Garden for the Church of St Matthew in Northampton where he was vicar. However, Sutherland chose instead to work on a version of the Crucifixion and Hussey readily accepted this proposal. Sutherland's composition was heavily influenced by a book he had seen of photographs taken of the concentration camps of Belsen, Auschwitz and Buchenwald. He wrote, "These photographs were to have a great effect on me; I saw them just before I received a commission to paint a Crucifixion - in them many of the tortured bodies looked like figures deposed from crosses. The whole idea of the depiction of Christ crucified became much more real to me after having seen this book and it seemed to be possible to do this subject again. In any case the continuing beastliness and cruelty of mankind, amounting at times to madness, seems eternal and classic." In all, he completed eight oil studies, all of varying size, design and background colour. This version is perhaps even more true to Sutherland's original concept than the final canvas in the rawness with which Christ's body has been portrayed.
Where to see this painting?
Pallant House Gallery
9 North Pallant, Chichester, West Sussex, England, PO19 1TJ
If you are planning a visit to see this painting, check with the collection first. Paintings can be moved at short notice.
More on this painting
bequeathed by Walter Hussey to Chichester District Council, 1985