Graham Sutherland

(London, 1903 – 1980)


Born in 1903 in London, Sutherland was educated at Epsom College, where he began to explore his passion for art; but was encouraged by his parents to take up an engineering apprenticeship once he left. It was in 1921 that Sutherland persuaded his parents to let him study art, entering Goldsmith’s College of art he chose to specialize in etching and engraving. He then went on to teach both illustration and etching at Chelsea School of Art in 1926.

He was flexible in his use of medium: ranging from painting and stained glass to fabric work and print making. He taught many of these varied skills at the Chelsea School of Art. When the establishment closed at the beginning of the Second World War, however, he moved to Gloucestershire and was offered a job as a salaried war artist by the War Artists’ Advisory Committee.

Sutherland’s “thorn period” began with the Crucifixion (1946) for St. Matthew’s Church, Northampton, considered to be one of the most important religious paintings of the 20th century. In his late work he incorporated anthropomorphic insect and plant forms, particularly thorns, which he transformed into powerful and frightening totemic images. The hard, spiky shapes of fossils provided the theme of his large Origins of the Land (1951).

His most well-known portrait was that of Sir Winston Churchill, which was famously hated by Churchill and destroyed by his wife. In his later years he spent a lot of time heading back to Wales for inspiration and devoted much of his energy to print-making.

Major retrospectives of his work have been held at the ICA, the Tate, the Dulwich Picture Gallery and the Musée Picasso.

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