|‘Christ of Saint John of the Cross’ (1951), by Salvador Dalí|
The Rev. Patrick Comerford, Church of Ireland priest, writes....my choice of a work of Art for Lent this Good Friday morning is ‘Christ of Saint John of the Cross,’ painted by Salvador Dali in 1951. This painting is in oil on canvas, measures 205 cm × 116 cm and can be seen in the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum, Glasgow.
This painting by Salvador Dalí depicts Christ on the cross in a darkened sky floating over a body of water complete with a boat and fishermen. Although Dalí depicts the crucifixion, this painting shows no nails, no blood, and no crown of thorns. Dalí once said he was convinced in a dream that these features would mar his depiction of Christ, and in that dream he was shown the importance of depicting Christ in the extreme angle we see in this painting. The painting is known as the ‘Christ of Saint John of the Cross’ because Dalí based his design on a drawing by the 16th century Spanish Carmelite friar and mystic Saint John of the Cross.
The composition of Christ is also based on a triangle and circle: the triangle is formed by Christ’s arms; the circle is formed by his head. The triangle refers to the Trinity. While the circle represents, in Dalí’s own words, “the very unity of the universe, the Christ!” It is different from any other image of the crucifixion. The angle of the view describes the hanging pain of this method of execution, but hides the ordinarily clichéd facial expressions normally seen on representations of the Crucifixion.
In 2009, the Guardian art critic, Jonathan Jones, described it as “kitsch and lurid,” but said this painting is “for better or worse, probably the most enduring vision of the crucifixion painted in the 20th century.” The painting was bought for Glasgow Corporation in the early 1950s for £8,200, and went on display at the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum in 1952. In 1961, a visitor attacked the painting with a stone and tore the canvas with his hands. It was successfully restored over several months. In 2006, it was selected in a poll as Scotland’s favourite painting.
Patrick Comerford's Blog is HERE