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Glasgow and Salvador Dali

Well that's just about a fortnight I've been back home, and what a grey and dreich two weeks it's been. We just about escaped the worst of the torrents of rain that caused tragedy in parts of northern England this week though the 36 hours we got last week was enough for the Clyde to burst its banks in many stretches along this part of South Lanarkshire. Hopefully, the worst is now over.


I'm looking to drive into Glasgow this week and get along to the Kelvingrove Gallery for a much needed art fix. Missing out on the Alhambra was a sore one but at least I know that practically on my own doorstep I have access to some of the world's greatest pieces of fine art.


Amongst the very best the Kelvingrove has to offer is Salvador Dali's Christ of St John of the Cross. This is a truly outstanding painting - on so many levels. Painted in the early 1950s it shows the crucifiction of Jesus from a perspective no one would ever have actually seen.


Dali drew inspiration for the painting from the work of a 15th century Carmellite monk who had sketched a cruder though similar image after seeing a vision.

When Glasgow Museums bought the piece a storm was whipped up by the avant garde art community who felt Dali had sold out and had painted something in an old tradition. They felt the money spent could have gone to better use. Bringing such an iconically religious painting to Glasgow, a city notoriously divided down Catholic and Protestant lines, was also an extremely dangerous thing to do.

In the 1960s the painting was attacked and slashed by a dissaffected student. Though it has been repaired you can still see the long deep scar lines if you look closely enough.

However, over time, the painting has come to be a much loved part of the city's cultural heritage.

I love standing in front of it and marvelling at Dali's skill in producing something that I can never actually figure out. Am I above the cross looking down? Am I below it looking up? Is it rising, falling or just kind of hovering? Christ's face is hidden. What expression is on his face? Is he dead at this point? How does Dali realise this disorienting effect?

You leave with more questions than answers, never a bad thing. 


As a work of sublime spirituality it's an enormously powerful piece of work. That's what people realise when they stand in front of it, and that ultimately is why the people of Glasgow cherish the painting that caused so many such anguish when it first arrived.

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