The Resurrection

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. Any auction prices quoted may not include all fees and taxes, such as VAT and Artist's Resale Right charges.

The Resurrection

The Resurrection (Slade School Sketch Club subject), 1912 (dated)
Pencil, pen and ink, 30.5 cm x 30.5 cm

Richard Cork has pointed out a similarity between this composition and Michelangelo's The Resurrection in the Royal Library at Windsor, but notes that 'by 1912 . . . the seeds of abstraction had already been planted in [Roberts's] work. A lingering debt to the Pre-Raphaelites is evident in the drooping Burne-Jones figure kneeling on the left . . . But . . . Roberts possessed an equally apparent urge to simplify his figures into massive, schematic units . . . Christ's figure has become a series of right-angles, shooting up out of the coffin until his outstretched arms cut through the geometric arc of the rainbow. And the coffin lid, flying back through the air away from the impact of this supernatural explosion, carries the abstract force of the vocabulary Roberts was to employ in his Vorticist work' (Richard Cork, David Bomberg (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1987), p. 64).
Although Cork identifies the resurrected figure with Christ, the central cross in the background seems to have someone hanging on the far side of it, and possibly someone kneeling at its foot. The picture may therefore refer to Matthew 27: 45–52: 'Now from the sixth hour there was darkness over all the land unto the ninth hour. And about the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani? that is to say, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me? . . . Jesus, when he had cried again with a loud voice, yielded up the ghost. And, behold, the veil of the temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom; and the earth did quake, and the rocks rent; And the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints which slept arose.'
PROVENANCE: St John Hutchinson > Leicester Galleries > Wilfrid Evill (Dec. 1945, 15 gns) > Miss Honor Frost > private collection, London
EXHIBITION HISTORY: Whitechapel Gallery 1914, Grosvenor House 1923, University College, 1927, Vienna 1927 (as Zeichnung), Leicester Galleries 1947, Tate Gallery 1952, Brighton Art Gallery 1965, Tate Gallery 1965, Hayward Gallery 1974, Anthony d'Offay Gallery (2) 1980

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