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Temporary Exhibition: Fyffe Christie’s mural “Christ Feeding the People” returns to Glasgow

A famous Glasgow work of art, thought lost after decades of searching failed to find any trace of it, has been rediscovered and brought back to the city of its birth where it goes on display today for the first time in 40 years. It will be exhibited at Govan Old (open daily 1–4pm) until Sunday 19 June.

‘Christ Feeding the People’ is a remarkable painting on many fronts. While deeply religious in character, it is unmistakably a Glasgow painting about Glasgow people and Glasgow life. Remarkable too on account of its size — a virtual cinema screen, 32 feet wide x 8 feet high onto which Glasgow School of Art–trained Fyffe Christie projects a variety of cameos celebrating the lives of ordinary people – a woman bathing a baby, another in the process of baking, people doing household chores, a labourer returning from work – as the figure of Christ stands among them offering bread.

It was commissioned in 1951 by George MacLeod, leader of the Iona Community (IC), a movement he founded in the field of social justice when minister at Govan Old in the 1930s and which took members of Govan’s unemployed to Iona to work alongside trainee ministers rebuilding the living quarters of the island’s Abbey.

For more than 25 years the mural hung at Community House, the IC headquarters in Clyde Street, in the busy canteen which was open to the public and frequented by the city’s homeless. It was said to represent the essence of the organisation’s work in the field of social justice. When Community House was demolished in 1977, the painting went into storage.

It then mysteriously disappeared entirely for decades and was thought lost. Rumour had it that it had been bought and exported to America. It was finally traced in 2017 to an art dealer living in Canada who had purchased it at a London art auction. Following negotiations and the intervention of a generous benefactor, the painting was purchased by Govan Heritage Trust and returned to Glasgow and to a new home at Govan Old.

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