Jerwood Foundation

Craigie Aitchison RA (1926-2009)

Crucifixion , 1994

  • Details

    ©2014 the artist's estate/Bridgeman Art Library

  • Medium

    oil on canvas

  • Dimensions

    42 x 38 in. (106.7 x 96.5 cm.)

  • Provenance

    Purchased at the 2004 Jerwood Painting Prize exhibition.

  • Exhibited

    Leeds, Harewood House, Terrace Gallery, Spirit of Lamlash: The Paintings of Craigie Aitchison, 1954-1994, October - November 1994.
    Southampton, City Art Gallery, August 1995 - April 1997 (on loan).
    Cambridge, King’s College Chapel, Whichcote Chapel, May 1997 - December 2007 (on loan).
    London, Royal Academy, Out of the Ordinary: Craigie Aitchison, October - November 2003, no. 58.
    Edinburgh, Royal Scottish Academy, Jerwood Painting Prize, August - September 2004: this exhibition toured to London, Royal Academy, September 2004.
    Hereford Cathedral, 2008-2014 (on loan).

  • Literature

    C. Milner, Itching the paint on to the canvas, Sunday Telegraph, 25 September 1994, illustrated.
    A. Robertson, Winning art of innocence, Sunday Times Scotland, 25 September 1994, illustrated.
    A Gibbon Williams, Craigie, The Art of Craigie Aitchison, Edinburgh, 1996, pp. 148-149, pl. 108.
    Church Times, 7 November 1997, illustrated.
    G. Pattison, Art, Modernity and Faith: Restoring the Image, London, 1998, illustrated on the front cover (detail).
    L. Gascoigne, Craigie Aitchison, Continental Drift, RA Magazine, Autumn 2003, p.62, illustrated.
    Church Times, 31 October 2003, illustrated.
    A. Lambirth, exhibition catalogue, Out of the Ordinary: Craigie Aitchison, London, Royal Academy, 2003, p. 75, illustrated.
    M. Sturgis, Jerwood, The Foundation and the Founders, Norwich, 2009, p. 48, illustrated pp.42 and 67.
    Collection Catalogue, Jerwood Collection, London 2012 p.29.

  • On Display

    Jerwood Gallery, Hastings

This painting was the recipient of the first Jerwood Painting Prize in 1994. The panel was chaired by Sir Peter Wakefield (former Director of the National Art Collections Fund) and included Judith Collins (Assistant Keeper of the Modern Collection at the Tate Gallery), Anna Ford (Broadcaster), Lord Gowrie (Chairman of the Arts Council), Hilton Kramer (Editor of the New York-based magazine New Criterion) and John McEwen (The Sunday Telegraph’s art critic).

Requesting the loan of Crucifixion to the Royal Academy’s major 2003 exhibition, Philip King (President, Royal Academy 1999-2004) wrote, ‘Crucifixion is not only one of the artist’s most ambitious and impressive works, it was also, significantly, the recipient of the Jerwood Prize, an accolade we hope to honour by including the work in the exhibition. With its brilliant colouring, subtle power and economy of design, Crucifixion reveals the essence of Aitchison’s work’.

Crucifixions are a major theme in Aitchison’s work. He first depicted this subject matter in 1958 after he returned from a trip to Italy and continued to do so for the rest of his career. ‘The Crucifixion is the most horrific story I’ve ever heard,’ he said. ‘They were all ganging up against one person. As long as the world exists we should attempt to record that. It was so unfair’.

The intense blue sky of Crucifixion, is typical of the artist’s heightened colour scheme. Aitchison was born in Scotland and his father’s picture collection included paintings by the Scottish Colourist, Peploe. Aitchison did not see himself as a Scottish painter, however, and he lived in London for over fifty years. He also spent long periods in Italy and owned an isolated stone farmhouse, Montecastelli, outside Siena.

This painting was on loan from 1997 to 2008 to King’s College Chapel, Cambridge, then moved to Hereford Cathedral, also on loan, where it hung in the crossing. It returned to join the rest of the Jerwood Collection in the Revealed exhibition at the Jerwood Gallery (February - April 2014).

Born in Edinburgh, Craigie Aitchison initially planned to pursue a career in the legal profession and studied at Edinburgh University and enrolled at London’s Middle Temple in 1948. He returned to Edinburgh in 1950, not to practise law but to paint, and two years later he took classes at the Slade School in London under the tutelage of Sir William Coldstream. In 1954 his work was included in the Six Young Contemporaries exhibition at Gimpel Fils and the following year he was awarded a British Council Scholarship, which enabled him to travel to Italy.

Aitchison’s first solo exhibition was held in 1959 at the Beaux Arts Gallery, London, where he showed again in 1960 and 1964. Major exhibitions of his work include: Serpentine Gallery, London (1981); Harewood House, Leeds (1994); Gallery of Modern Art, Glasgow (1996); and the Royal Academy, London (2003). He was elected RA in 1988 and was appointed CBE in 1999. He won the RA’s Korn Ferry International Award in 1989, and again in 1991, and the Nordstern Art Prize in 2000. Aitchison won the first Jerwood Painting Prize in 1994, when he was shortlisted alongside Maurice Cockrill RA, John Hoyland RA, Yuko Shiraishi, Euan Uglow and John Lessore.