Good Friday - Crucifixion, Stanley Spencer

April 17, 2014

Crucifixion, Stanley Spencer, 1921, oil on paper, 70.7 x 111.6cm

 

The first thing I noticed about this painting is that the three crosses are not high up on the hill as we often see them depicted. They are almost hidden away in what looks like the valleys of sand dunes. This V shape is ideal for the people carrying out the crucifixion, as they are able to stand easily to tie them up and nail them. The group of people to the right who we assume to be the women and disciples who stayed are surrounded by blue ribbons. There appears to be one guard - maybe walking towards them, maybe signifying that they need holding back, but whatever is happening, the group is contained within itself, supporting itself, or probably more accurately, leaning in on itself.

 

This scene has a lot more green than some paintings of the crucifixion and also some quite a bit of movement in it, the wind appears to be gusty, blowing clothes around and impeding the workers. Those nailing and tying are all dressed in white, or at least wrapped in white cloth, as they appear to have placed the white over another garment.

 

There is one person with a black top who seems to be kissing Jesus' feet even while the nails are being hammered in, unable to leave or even stand back in this moment. This is not a pristine interpretation of the crucifixion, an idealisation of a Christ whose only display of the agony is a slightly pained face. This is a group of people, people we may know, people we may be, currently experiencing a crucifixion: some are hung between two ridges, others trying to do their work as they battle the elements, others trying to just survive and understand their worst fears being played out in front of them.

 

What do you see? What do you feel?

 

 

http://www.bbc.co.uk/arts/yourpaintings/paintings/crucifixion-107921

http://www.wikipaintings.org/en/stanley-spencer/the-crucifixion-1958

 

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