A Last Supper At St Albans Cathedral | Lorna May Wadsworth

July 20, 2020

Black Lives Matter Installation

A high resolution print of Lorna May Wadsworth's painting A Last Supper at St Albans Cathedral.

Start: 4th July, 2020 at 10:00am

End: 31st October, 2020 at 12:00am

As a response to the Black Lives Matter movement, the Dean of St Albans Cathedral, Dr Jeffrey John, requested a fine art print copy of Wadsworth's A Last Supper be hung in the Altar of the Persecuted in the North Transept. Inspired by this important gesture, Lorna has decided to offer to make further high-quality print copies of the painting - purely on a cost price basis - for other churches and religious organisations.

Wadsworth forged her career and reputation with a series of celebrated representations of sitters from the worlds of politics, entertainment and literature, but it is her 2009 depiction of the last supper, with Christ as a black man, that has most recently achieved iconic status. 

The original version of the 12-foot-long oil on aluminium reworking of Leonardo's Last Supper currently hangs in St George's Church in Nailsworth, Gloucestershire. It was painted entirely from life with Jesus represented by Jamaican-born fashion model, Tafari Hinds.

When he saw it, not long after it was first painted, Dr Rowan Williams, then Archbishop of Canterbury commented that Wadsworth's Last Supper had "tremendous vitality, but also a really powerful tension between the agitation of some figures and the profound stillness and presence of others. All the faces repay long looking."

In 2019, the painting made national news, when the artist discovered it had been shot whilst supervising the scanning, while in situ behind the altar of St. George's. The damage occurred on Christ's right side, the same place that Longinus, a Roman centurion, pierced the body of Jesus with his spear as he hung from the cross. 

She says: "The underlying narrative of my work is the female gaze. Throughout art history we have viewed figurative painting though the eyes and ideals of men. I seek to challenge this orthodoxy and in my Last Supper I offered a fresh interpretation by using beautiful models as the disciples. I also wanted to question the western myth that Jesus had fair hair and blue eyes by casting him as black, which in my view, is just as 'accurate' as the received idea that he looked like a Florentine."

"When the work was loaned for my recent retrospective exhibition GAZE at the Graves Gallery in Sheffield, I took the opportunity for the work to be scanned. This means the altarpiece can now be printed at scale and installed in any church around the world."

"I accepted the commission on the condition that I had total artistic control. This inverted the usual power dynamic that usually occurs between commissioner and artist, whereby the commissioner hires an artist to paint an image of their choosing. I did the painting for expenses only, as a trade-off for having the power of portrayal. It therefore only seems right to offer prints of this painting at cost to any church who would like one. Challenging the visual orthodoxy that has historically made so many feel excluded is one way that, as a society, we can begin to heal."

Visit Wadsworth's website here.

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