AN ENGLISH CUBIST
Illustration © The Estate of John David Roberts. Reproduced with the permission of the William Roberts Society. Catalogue information based on the catalogue raisonné by David Cleall. For this and full details of the exhibitions cited, see the links below.
The Crucifixion (aka The Scarlet Robe), c. 1922
(dated by the Methodist Education Committee as early 1920s; dated in the Tate Gallery 1965 catalogue as 1919)
Oil on canvas, 76.2 cm x 91.4 cm
'Then the soldiers of the governor took Jesus into the common hall, and gathered unto him the whole band of soldiers. And they stripped him, and put on him a scarlet robe. And when they had platted a crown of thorns, they put it upon his head, and a reed in his right hand: and they bowed the knee before him, and mocked him, saying, Hail, King of the Jews! And they spit upon him, and took the reed, and smote him on the head. And after that they had mocked him, they took the robe off from him, and put his own raiment on him, and led him away to crucify him . . . And they crucified him, and parted his garments, casting lots: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet, They parted my garments among them, and upon my vesture did they cast lots' (Matthew 27:2735).
'William Roberts recalls that he painted this shortly after the end of his service as a war artist, at a time when he had some idea of entering for the Prix de Rome (for which two pictures were required). However, he never got round to painting the second and so the idea fell through. [Winning would have entailed a three-year residency in Rome, which may have made the idea unattractive given his domestic circumstances.] A little later, Rudolph Stulik . . . came to his studio and told him that he thought he had found a buyer for it. Roberts did not discover until afterwards that this was Augustus John' Tate Gallery 1965 catalogue, p. 10. In 1923 the painting was exhibited at the Chenil Gallery under the title of The Scarlet Robe and was priced at £55 the second most expensive painting in the exhibition. Augustus John who, in his memoir Finishing Touches (London: Jonathan Cape, 1966), described 'the gifted William Roberts' as 'the only incurable cubist in London' (p. 118) would have seen it at this exhibition before buying it.
PROVENANCE: Augustus John ('The painting remained in the collection of Augustus John from around 1923 until it was sold by his estate in 1963' Methodist Education Committee catalogue, p. 28) > Christie's 26 Apr. 1963 > Mayor Gallery > Methodist Education Committee
EXHIBITION HISTORY: Chenil Gallery 1923, Tate Gallery 1965, Methodist Education Committee 1963 (regular touring)
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