This exciting newly discovered work by Guthrie is quite a rarity. Showing a figure seated looking at us is almost certainly a self portrait and the seated figure next to him is probably the artist Thomas Monnington (1902-76), a contemporary at the Slade. As yet the other figures in the painting have not been identified, though it seems likely that they were friends or colleagues of Guthrie’s.
Guthrie entered the Slade School of Art in 1918 with the financial assistance of his patron, the collector Jakob de Graaf. His skilful draughtsmanship brought him to the attention of Henry Tonks (1862-1937), the school’s principal, and in the summer of 1920 his painting Pastoral Scene with Figures won first prize for composition.
Guthrie completed his studies in the summer of 1922 and took a studio in a church hall on Parkhill Road, Hampstead, London, with his fellow student and friend Rodney Burn (1899-1984). Sermon on the Mount (Tate Britain) was painted during these months, either just before he left the Slade or just after. Although the depiction of religious and mythological subjects was encouraged at the Slade, Sermon on the Mount should be considered in relation to Jacob Epstein’s Risen Christ 1919 (Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art) and within the wider proliferation of such imagery after the First World War (1914-8).
Tate Britain, Manchester Art Gallery, UCL Art Museum, Worthing Museum, National Portrait Gallery