A Salvador Dali masterpiece on loan to the Spanish Gallery in Bishop Auckland will help tell the story of Spain’s Golden Age during its five-month installation.
The artwork titled Christ of St John of the Cross has been taken to its temporary home in County Durham and will be displayed alongside El Greco’s Christ on the Cross – uniting the two Spanish masterpieces .
El Greco portrays Christ as a living man with the dramatic contrasts of light speaking to an experience of anguish, forcing the viewer to come face to face with the suffering of Christ.
While Dali presents a beautiful but anonymous figure seen from above, emphasizing his role as the Son of God and the magnitude of his sacrifice.
The founder of The Auckland Project, Jonathan Ruffer, thanked the “wonderfully generous” Glasgow Life Museum for loaning the painting, adding that “mere words of thanks really aren’t enough”.
He told the PA news agency: “I have always believed in the power of incongruity and one of the reasons we have a Spanish gallery is that such a thing is unlikely to exist.
“To have such an important image as Dali’s is really a wonderful thing.
“The Spanish Gallery talks about the Spanish Golden Age which really started from the 1590s and ended probably 70 or 80 years later.
“We are telling a story and Dali’s image really helps us tell that story. The crucifixion is probably the most painted of all religious images in the world.
“The death of Christ was a really central thing in the 1600s and here we have someone painting a picture that in the 1950s was a very old-fashioned thing to do, and almost unique to do with a sense of realism that Dali brought so that begs the question what is this image about and if you take it out next to El Greco, whose images of the crucifixion are extraordinarily powerful, it begs the question what do you see when you look these things.
“It stops being pretty much the two images in front of you and it becomes about you, what do you see when you look.”
The masterpiece arrived on Tuesday ahead of its public exhibition at the gallery from July 9 to December 4.
Speaking of seeing the masterpiece for the first time, Mr Ruffer added: “It’s bigger than you think, we’re used to seeing it on a postcard.
“I went on holiday to Croatia three or four years ago and on the main street there was a tattoo shop and you could choose between 15 different things to tattoo, one of them was Dali’s crucifixion , how about fame?”
The Spanish Gallery is the UK’s premier gallery dedicated to the art, history and culture of Spain in the 16th and 17th centuries and was officially opened by the Queen of Spain.
Duncan Dornan, Head of Museums and Collections at Glasgow Life, said: “Presenting this precious painting in a new way allows us to broaden our understanding of the incredible artist, Salvador Dali, who painted this iconic work, who remains a favorite of Glasgow residents and visitors to the city.
“Glasgow’s art collection is considered to be one of the finest in Europe and the loan of key pieces enables people across the country to access and enjoy them, further enhancing our reputation.”