The Glasgow Cross
The Glasgow Cross
By:, Categories: Words & Images, 2 comments


Salvador Dalí’s iconic masterpiece, Christ of Saint John of the Cross, is, for better or worse, probably the most enduring vision of the crucifixion painted in the 20th century – some say it is the most breathtaking painting not only from the studio of Dali, but in all of 20th century art. And it can be found right here in Glasgow, and free to view.


It first displayed in Glasgow’s Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum on 23 June 1952 – and it came to find its way to Glasgow thanks to the perseverance of one man, Dr Tom Honeyman, then the Director of Kelvingrove. He managed to endear himself with Dali and negotiated not just the painting for the City of Glasgow but also for the copyright to be included in the purchase price of £8,200 — much, much lower than its catalogue price.


Apart from Honeyman’s tactful handing of Dali, Glasgow had another thing going for it in the eyes of the artist: he had a friend who liked Glasgow and told him what a wonderful city it was. That was enough to convince the surrealist legend to sell it to the city. Honeyman and Dali thereafter struck up a lifelong friendship and, over the proceeding years, corresponded regularly. Their letters are now held in the National Library of Scotland.


Yet despite pulling off the deal of the century, City fathers originally balked at acquiring it, because, they complained, the price tag seemed outrageous and irresponsible at the time. Today, Dali’s Christ of St. John of the Cross – the best-loved and voted Scotland’s favourite painting – monetarily has been valued somewhere north of $80 million. Of course, its aesthetic value is immeasurable. It has also helped to put Glasgow on the art map: Kelvingrove is the most popular free visitor attraction in Scotland and the 14th most popular major gallery in the world.


But in a city with a sectarian divide, this proved to be a controversial work of art with a backstory of considerable drama attached to it. Some claimed the painting was sacrilegious; others that it was a tad too Catholic. The painting has also twice been attacked and restored, most famously in 1961 when the canvas was almost slashed in two by a deranged fanatic.  You might think that this was the result of religious outrage, but in fact it was motivated by the fact that the attacker considered it was a very bad likeness of Christ. He should know, since  he claimed to be Jesus, and the painting looked nothing like him!


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  • Yummy Good Story
    Like The Painting
    Filled with Drama, Passion, and Conflict