The Crucifixion (Passion Series) c. 1934–35
Kathleen Munn, The Crucifixion (Passion Series), c. 1934–35
Pen and black ink over graphite on wove paper, 57 x 77.2 cm
National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa
Munn depicted the Crucifixion in paintings, drawings, and sketches more than any other Passion scene. This Crucifixion is one of the most ambitious and accomplished works from her Passion series—her large ink on paper drawings first exhibited publically in Toronto in 1935 at the Malloney Galleries in Exhibition of Drawings by Kathleen Munn, LeMoine FitzGerald, Bertram Brooker. Graham McInnes, critic for Saturday Night, wrote in a review of the show: “In her Crucifixion series Miss Munn has built up through her feeling for composition, a series of drawings whose cumulative effect on one is almost awesome.” In a letter to Lionel LeMoine FitzGerald (1890–1956) in 1934, Bertram Brooker (1888–1955) described Munn’s Passion drawings as “simply stupendous.”
The Crucifixion was selected by prints and drawing curator Rosemary Tovell for acquisition by the National Gallery of Canada (NGC) in 1974, when she visited the artist in her home. Tovell recalls a small apartment filled with drawings, and a woman with a lovely sense of humour and a lively mind. Munn was eager to talk about her time in the 1920s with collectors Ruth and Harold Tovell (the curator’s grandparents). She admired their collection of modern art and remembered feeling understood and supported in their company. Energized by the curator’s visit and the promised acquisition, after decades of obscurity, Munn wrote of her hope: “a possible future for my work.” Sadly, she did not live to see this happen. In October that year, before the sale was complete, she died, never knowing that her artistic achievements were soon to be recognized. The work was eventually purchased by the NGC in 1995.