Thorn Head
© Estate of Graham Sutherland

Reference URL

Thorn Head 1949
Sutherland began his series of ‘Thorn Head’ paintings in 1945. He was initially inspired by a commission to paint a Crucifixion and by photographs of concentration camp victims from the recently-ended Second World War. Becoming more preoccupied with Christ’s crown of thorns, Sutherland began making drawings of thorn bushes. He noticed the way that the thorns acted ‘like dividers pricking out points in space in all directions, encompassing the air, as if it were solid and tangible.’ Sutherland developed his paintings of heads from looking at entangled, thorny branches. The earlier paintings in the series show a mass of curves and points, while this later work is bolder, showing a freestanding head in isolation with only minimal shapes to suggest thorns.

Glossary Open


When an individual or organisation employs an artist to execute a particular project, the process and the resulting work are termed a ‘commission’.



  • Acc. No. GMA 1711
  • Medium Oil on canvas
  • Size 60.70 x 46.00 cm
  • Credit Purchased 1978