'The Risen Christ' began as a portrait of Epstein's friend, the composer Bernard van Dieren. It was begun in 1917 when van Dieren was ill, and Epstein wanted to make a mask of him looking 'spiritual and worn with suffering.' After making a mask from clay, the piece then developed into the figure of Christ. Work was temporarily put on hold when Epstein was enlisted in 1917 but continued a year later. The artist considered the figure to be an anti-war statement and declared that he would ideally like it to be remodelled and made hundreds of feet high as a 'mighty symbolic warning to all lands.'