Salvador Dalí’s ‘celebrated’ painting will go on display in the northeast for the first time from July

A “famous” painting by Salvador Dalí will be exhibited for the first time in the North East between July and December this year.

by Dali Christ of Saint John on the Cross will be presented at the Spanish Gallery in Bishop Auckland from July 9 to December 4 alongside El Greco Christ on the cross, bringing together two Spanish masterpieces in the UK’s first gallery dedicated to art from the Spanish Golden Age. One of the most reproduced paintings of the 20th century, Dalí’s masterpiece was loaned by the Glasgow Life Museums, after the city acquired the work in 1952.

The Spanish Gallery’s first-ever temporary exhibition aims to celebrate two of art’s most singular painters and compare their reimagining of the subject of Christ on the Cross. The latter’s painting went on public display for the first time after more than two centuries in a private collection when the Spanish Gallery opened last year.

Read more: UK’s first gallery dedicated to Spanish art, culture and history opens in County Durham

Dalí’s Christ of St. John of the Cross was last loaned to a British institution in 2017, on a visit to the Royal Academy in London. Of painting, Dalí said: “I want to paint a Christ that is a painting with more beauty and joy than ever before.”

Separated by nearly 350 years, the two works convey landscapes based on places where the artists lived and worked, from the greenery of Toledo to the coastal backdrop of Portlligat. However, that’s where the similarities end, with each artist offering contrasting perspectives on the theme.

Christ on the Cross, Doménikos Theotokópoulos, known as “El Greco” 1541–1614, oil on canvas, 1600–1610, The Spanish Gallery, Bishop Auckland. Acquired with the support of Art Fund with a contribution from the Wolfson Foundation.

According to experts, El Greco depicts Christ as a real living man and forces the viewer to come face to face with the suffering of Christ. However, Dalí presents an anonymous figure seen from above, emphasizing his role as the Son of God and the magnitude of the sacrifice he witnessed.

Christ of Saint John of the Cross by Salvador Dalí
Christ of Saint John of the Cross by Salvador Dalí

Jonathan Ruffer, founder of the Auckland Project, said: “Our Spanish gallery has several examples of ‘Christ on the Cross’ painted around 400 years ago, including our example by the Golden Age master El Greco. The generous loan of Dalí’s iconic ‘Christ of St John on the Cross’ provides an opportunity to put the same image of today’s world with that of the past and ask the question – are they really paintings the same?”

Jonathan Ruffer, founder of the Auckland Project, at the Spanish Gallery
Jonathan Ruffer, founder of the Auckland Project, at the Spanish Gallery

Former Glasgow Museums Director Dr Tom Honeyman, who acquired the work on behalf of the City of Glasgow, expressed Dalí’s willingness to loan the work as widely as possible, in line with the mission of the Spanish Gallery to make available to the public an extraordinary example of Spanish art. British public. Dr Honeyman said: “If ever asked what I would do with Dali, I think I would answer like this: Put it into circulation as much and as often as possible.”

Although the Spanish Gallery has been open to visitors since October 2021, its official opening took place in April and saw Her Majesty the Queen of Spain and HRH The Prince of Wales cut the ribbon. The gallery aims to complement the Spanish masterpieces by Francisco de Zurbarán that have been housed in nearby Auckland Castle for over 250 years.

Once the painting has completed its stay at the Spanish Gallery, it will return to the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum, considered one of the finest art collections in Europe. For more information on the Spanish Gallery, visit its website.

Have you ever been to the Spanish Gallery in Bishop Auckland? Let us know!

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