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The Deposition, painting by Graham Sutherland, 1946

Sutherland’s harrowing painting is one of a number of works on religious themes which he began to paint from c. 1944. Precisely dated 23 November 1946, its subject undoubtedly makes reference to the violence and atrocities of the Second World War.

For Sutherland, a convert to Catholicism in 1926, the Deposition of Christ was ‘the most tragic of all themes’, though one that inherently spoke of ‘the promise of salvation’, suggesting that even in the bleakest moments of suffering, there is hope. Stylistically, it shows the influence of Picasso’s powerful anti-war painting, Guernica (1937), which toured to England during 1938-39. Sutherland would eventually meet Picasso himself in 1947.