Biography of Graham Sutherland

Photo of Graham Sutherland

Graham Sutherland was a twentieth century artist known for his tapestry in Coventry Cathedral and his many portraits.

When and Where was he Born?

24th August 1903, London, England.

Family Background:

Graham Sutherland was the son of a lawyer and civil servant.


Goldsmiths’ College of Art, London.

Timeline of Graham Sutherland:

1926: Sutherland becomes a Catholic.

1927: He marries Kathleen Barry.

1928: He begins teaching at the Chelsea school of Art.

1930: The print market in Great Britain in which he had plied his trade collapses due to the recession and Sutherland begins painting.

1934: Sutherland is profoundly affected by the landscape of Pembrokeshire in Wales.

1936: He exhibits some landscapes in the International Surrealist Exhibition in London.

1937: Sutherland moves to the White House in Kent.

1939: He gives up his role at the Chelsea school of Art.

1940: Sutherland is appointed an official War Artist. He principally worked on the home front painting and drawing the mines and urban bomb damage.

Coventry Cathedral
The new Coventry Cathedral standing to the right of the old one bombed in the Blitz of 1940 (copyright Anthony Blagg)

1941: He holds his first retrospective exhibition along with Henry Moore and John Piper at the Temple Newsam Gallery in Leeds.

1944: The vicar of St Matthew’s in Northampton, Walter Hussey, commissions him to paint “The Crucifixion” for the church.

Horned Forms. 1944. (Tate Gallery)
Horned Forms. 1944. (Tate Gallery)

1946: St Matthew’s Church, “Crucifixion” is completed. He holds his first one man exhibition at the Bucholz Gallery in New York.

1947: His work becomes inspired by his visits to the South of France.

1949: Sutherland paints a portrait of William Somerset Maugham.

1952: He exhibits in the British Pavilion at the Venice Biennale with other artists such as Edward Wadsworth. He is commissioned to design a large tapestry for Coventry Cathedral.

1954: The controversial portrait of Winston Churchill is painted. Churchill hated it as he said it made him look half witted. (it was destroyed later by Churchill’s wife in 1955 or 1956).

Portrait of Winston Chuchill. 1954
Portrait of Winston Chuchill. 1954

1955: Sutherland purchases a La Villa Blanche in Menton in the South of France.

1962: The large tapestry “Christ in Glory” is completed for the new Coventry Cathedral designed by the Architect Basil Spence.

Tapestry Coventry Cathedral
Sutherland’s tapestry of Christ appearing 
as a vision through the modern windows of 
Coventry Cathedral with reflections of the 
old building in the background (copyright  Anthony Blagg)

1967: Sutherland returns again to Wales and was to work there many times again before his death.

1977: Major retrospective of his portraits at the National Portrait Gallery in London.

Where and When did he Die?

17th February 1980, London, England of natural causes.

Age at Death:



1927 to Kathleen Barry.

Site of Grave:

Churchyard at Trottiscliffe, Kent after a private service at a Roman Catholic Seminary in West Malling.

Places of Interest:


Coventry Cathedral (Tapestry behind Altar).


Nature in Art, Wallsworth Hall.


City Art Gallery, Southampton.


Bolton Art Gallery.
Art Gallery, Bury.
City Art Gallery, Manchester.


Royal Air Force Museum, Hendon.
Tate Britain.
National Portrait Gallery.


Chichester Cathedral.
Pallant House, Chichester.


Museum and Art Gallery, Swindon.


Ory Art Gallery, Leeds.


Graham Sutherland Gallery, Penrhyn Castle, Bangor.
School of Art Gallery and Museum, Aberystwyth.