In 2000, Sebastian Horsley, a British painter, decided he wanted to paint the crucifixion of Jesus. However, before he could go on to paint such a significant biblical event, he felt it was necessary to understand what being crucified actually felt like. Horsley then travelled to the Philippines, where he paid a team of locals 2,000 euros to hammer five-inch nails through his wrists and ankles, and hoist him onto a cross. This would then allow him to later recall the indescribable pain of the experience when painting the crucifixion of Jesus. The process took around half an hour, during which Horsley ended up losing consciousness, and sharing that he even felt a rush of hallucinogenic endorphins right before passing out. At one point, his foot support ended up breaking beneath him, and if it wasn’t for his friend who caught him, the nails would have torn through his hands. Apparently, Horsley has always had a strange relationship, and almost fascination with death; as he would sleep with a loaded gun next to his bed so that he might accidentally pick it up and shoot himself, thinking it was his telephone.

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Taylor Schweer

34 thoughts on “Crucifixion

  1. The commitment Horsley puts into his art is both admirable and questionable. Personally, I don’t understand the thought processes behind his actions; I think that as long as he is not hurting anyone else in the process of his art, there is nothing wrong with how he chooses his inspiration. Kudos to him though.

  2. This is really quite interesting and I feel like is a pretty important art piece for the Christian community.

  3. It’s often said that relaying pain is one of the most difficult things to do because the brain does not remember and cannot curate pain, it can only interpret and remember discomfort. I guess this is why Horsley felt the need to experience the crucifixion himself. All forms of art, whether visible, audible, or tactile hold their own certain aura to them, I’m sure being in the same room as this piece must have felt extremely heaving and discomforting just as Horsley himself must have felt.

  4. Depicting pain is so complicated, why we may be able to sympathize for people simply just from reading or visualizing the torture, to go the next step and experience it himself sets artists like Horsley apart. I suppose it may be part of being a true artist to want to curate a new reflection of the crucifixion but the thought of going through that just to paint a historical event is slightly concerning. In history there have been a lot of artists that express their troubled thoughts and emotions through art and as an audience or a viewer it can be extremely difficult to completely understand what was running through the curator’s mind but what’s true is that every painting or piece of art has it’s very own aura, I can only imagine what it would be like to be in the same room as this painting that hold so much pain.

  5. I am not going to judge his devotion and dedication to god and his work since I am not an artist or even a religious person. Sometimes art can be a personal thing, and Horsley is faithfully working on something that he is interested in without hurting someone else. However, I do see Horsley is obsessed with death; this can be more problematic without the right guidance. The line between art and suicidal ideation is hard to draw. Crucifixion oneself can be dangerous for him and disturbing for people around him. I wonder what stance society should take on art forms like this.

  6. Sebastian Horsley’s decision to undergo such an extreme and dangerous experience in order to better understand the crucifixion of Jesus is both intriguing and deeply unsettling. While it’s understandable that an artist would want to connect with the subject matter they are portraying, there are certainly less extreme methods to achieve that understanding. The fact that Horsley was willing to subject himself to such physical pain and risk his life demonstrates a complex relationship with death and a fascination with the macabre. It is not the first time that an artist has sought to push boundaries and challenge societal norms. However it is important that we as a society consider the potential consequences of their actions. Engaging in dangerous activities can have serious physical and psychological repercussions, not only for the artist but also for those who may be influenced by their behavior. There may be other younger artists trying to emulate a similar work and resort to these same measures, potentially endangering their lives. This should never be the goal of artists, hence why I am both intrigued but disturbed by Horsley’s commitment to his work.

  7. To me, Sebastian Horsley’s decision to undergo such an extreme and dangerous experience in order to better understand the crucifixion of Jesus is both intriguing and deeply unsettling. While it’s not new that an artist would want to connect with the subject matter they are portraying, there are certainly less extreme methods to achieve that understanding. The fact that Horsley was willing to subject himself to such physical pain and risk his life demonstrates a complex relationship with death and a fascination with the macabre. Artists often seek to push boundaries and challenge societal norms, but it is important to consider the potential consequences of their actions. Engaging in dangerous activities can have serious physical and psychological repercussions, not only for the artist but also for those who may be influenced by their behavior. There may be younger artists seeking to emulate his level of artistry and these risks he took should not be normalized.

  8. I respect a dedicated person when I see one but it is really hard to put yourself into the shoes of someone whose train of thought when looking at the crucifixion of Jesus, is that that was an experience they need to have before they die. There is a fine line between dedication and pure insanity and I think this artist has one toe in dedication and the rest of his body in insanity. In all seriousness, however, I also realize that at times, insanity is what is needed in order to push boundaries and uncover the undiscovered. Everything new and innovative that has and will ever happen has existed outside of the comfort zone at one point or another. Whether that means nailing yourself to a cross is a good idea or not, however, is still up for debate to me.

  9. I wonder if Horsley may or may not have the same strange obsession with religion like he does with death. The process of convincing himself that he would want to experience this pain because he simply wished the paint a portrait of the crucifixion of Jesus Christ must be a fairly easy one for him. As bizarre as this is, I honor his determination.

  10. For someone to be so fixated and strangely interested in the process of death, the extent in which Horsley took to experience what Jesus might have experienced on the cross is almost obsessive. I am curious if there is a possibility he had the same obsessive interest with religion, or may the specific story of Jesus’s resurrection, because other than that, what would he gain from experiencing the “indescribable pain” that a religious prophet may or may not have experienced?

  11. I agree with what many comments say, but I want to add that by expressing himself so vividly in his art, Horsley literally put himself in Jesus’s shoes. Although that statement may be a bit controversial, the dark nature of his research shows how his research goes beyond the imagination. He really experienced each and every nail that Jesus did, and although he wasn’t facing the same persecution, you can argue that Horsley has the closest depiction of Jesus on the cross as a result of his own personal experience.

  12. I agree with what you say, but I want to add that by expressing himself so vividly in his art, Horsley literally put himself in Jesus’s shoes. Although that statement may be a bit controversial, the dark nature of his research shows how his research goes beyond the imagination. He really experienced each and every nail that Jesus did, and although he wasn’t facing the same persecution, you can argue that Horsley has the closest depiction of Jesus on the cross as a result of his own personal experience.

  13. I agree with what many reviewers say, but I want to add that by expressing himself so vividly in his art, Horsley literally put himself in Jesus’s shoes. Although that statement may be a bit controversial, the dark nature of his research shows how his research goes beyond the imagination. He really experienced each and every nail that Jesus did, and although he wasn’t facing the same persecution, you can argue that Horsley has the closest depiction of Jesus on the cross as a result of his own personal experience.

  14. I’m not even sure how to respond to this! On one hand, what dedication. On the other, do you really need to mutilate yourself to create this piece? I suppose that’s only a question the artist can answer for themselves, but wow. I’d also be curious to know how this affected the people who were paid to assist him?

  15. It is really shocking to me that Horsley put himself through this pain in order to interpret the crucifixion of Jesus. I find it very admirable that he fully engulfs himself into his art. However, I feel that there is an extreme that does not always need to be met. I know that there is physical art that people will demonstrate through showing that can inflict pain on the artist to show a deeper meaning. If Horsley’s painting was all that was demonstrated, then I do not feel he needed to go through all of that pain to create his piece. However, if what he went through was part of the art form and his experience was included in the piece, then I can understand why Horsley went through this.

    1. I agree with what you say, but I want to add that by expressing himself so vividly in his art, Horsley literally put himself in Jesus’s shoes. Although that statement may be a bit controversial, the dark nature of his research shows how his research goes beyond the imagination. He really experienced each and every nail that Jesus did, and although he wasn’t facing the same persecution, you can argue that Horsley has the closest depiction of Jesus on the cross as a result of his own personal experience.

  16. I want to say that Horsley’s dedication to his art is admirable to be completely honest I also find it extremely disturbing. Perhaps that is part of his goal. My father is an artist and in my childhood, I was exposed to a lot of interesting types of people who would go to great lengths for their art, whether it was taking drugs that would make them vomit for days on end or even types of self-mutilation similar to Horsley’s. After growing up surrounded by these types of people, I believe there is a line between art and insanity. Art is an experience and sometimes the artist’s personal experiences can be part of the performance however, art can also stem from insanity and it can be used as an excuse/justification for it. I think that actions such as this possibly fall in that category.

  17. As an artist, Horsley’s devotion and dedication into art is admirable, but his extreme behaviors also raise the question about what should be count as art and what should not. The only difference of what Horsley has done and merely self-injury (or possible suicide) it that he claimed it to be part of an artwork, yet we do not know if it was only because of his fascination in death. If the only difference between art and anything is on the artist’s mind, then how and based on what, should the rest of the world be judging his art work?

  18. This case is very interesting to think about. I have never heard about an artist going to such extreme lengths for their artistry. I think many artists can admire the dedication that he has to his work because artists often have to immerse themselves in their art. However, I definitely think that Horsley’s fascination with death is abnormal and should be something he check out. There could be some serious consequences to the risky behavior that Horsely engages in.

  19. This story about Sebastian Horsley’s extreme and unconventional approach to understanding the crucifixion is certainly thought-provoking. It highlights the lengths some artists are willing to go in order to immerse themselves in their subject matter. While Horsley’s decision to undergo such a painful and risky experience may seem extreme, it sheds light on the depth of his commitment to his art. It also reveals the complex relationship he had with death and his desire to explore and understand its power. However, the detail about sleeping with a loaded gun leads me to question if his intentions had more to do with his intrigue with death, and less to do with his art.

  20. This case is extremely fascinating and a nod to the lengths one will and can go to achieve their idea of artistic fulfillment, and leaves me with many questions. I wonder if Horsley is religious or grew up religious. I wonder if there is a sense of narcissism involved in order to push someone to such lengths, including traveling and finding the right place to perform such event, to produce something great. I would ask Horsley if he feels that his painting was able to capture the intense pain he, and Jesus, felt during Crucifixion.

  21. This is someone who willingly partakes in such activities as part of his craft. Art is art even if you don’t like it or even if it’s illegal. But what I find most admirable about him is that he is dedicated to accurate portrayal. No matter the reason he wanted to experience this, he did in an effort to produce a better work of art. I see many portrayals today (in movies, games, books) that are truly awful. They are awful not because they are poorly drawn, written, etc, but because it is clear the creator did not take into account what the truth of what he is portraying is. An example is how in the not so far past, almost all black representation in popular movies were just stereotypes that popular culture at the time held. However as we can clearly see, public perception changes over time and that gives me hope. I am happy knowing that many people have the common good in mind when speaking out and I truly believe that, even though it might be slow, art can become ever more authentic to the true human experience.

  22. I fully support Horsley. This is someone who willingly partakes in such activities as part of his craft. But what I find most admirable about him is that he is dedicated to accurate portrayal. No matter the reason he wanted to experience this, he did in an effort to produce a better work of art. I see many portrayals today (in movies, games, books) that are truly awful. They are awful not because they are poorly drawn, written, etc, but because it is clear the creator did not take into account what the truth of what he is portraying is. An example is how in the not so far past, almost all black representation in popular movies were just stereotypes that popular culture at the time held. However as we can clearly see, public perception changes over time and that gives me hope. I am happy knowing that many people have the common good in mind when speaking out and I truly believe that, even though it might be slow, art can become ever more authentic to the true human experience.

  23. There are multiple perspectives to take on this. On the one hand, it is interesting that a person wants to explore this new experience (the pain of Jesus), and it is astounding that he was able to to withstand the process, it is highlighting a different view of art, the view of death. On the other hand, I don’t if this is just me, but I can’t feeling a little worried for Horsely’s mental state, it would be one thing if this was like a one time, but this guy seems to flirt with death a lot. However, the final perspective point, the morality, provides a whole new view. I believe that people imitating Jesus and getting Crucified has become a tradition in some parts of the Philippines (this is why I suspect Horsley went there). In that case is it culturally insensitive to call Horsely mad for doing this, when a bunch of other people do the same. Are the people that aid him and others, enablers, or people that are just helping out?

  24. It is one thing for the artist to want to shoot himself in his sleep. But having other people crucify him is pretty reckless in the since that he could be putting those individuals in a lot of legal trouble should he have died or even if he hadn’t. It may be art when the artist is hurting themselves, but not when they are putting others at a legal risk.

  25. The dedication that an artist like Horsley had is admirable yet questionable. I wonder what the process and experience of painting Jesus’ crucifixion was like. Was it emotional? Scary? Or was the excitement of painting the crucifixion of Jesus gone due to the pain he experienced being crucified? I am no artist, so I don’t think commenting about Horsley’s action was justified. However, if I were him, spending 2,000 Euros on getting crucified should be something to reconsider maturely. But props to him for going all out!

  26. Wow. This is a prime example of an artist who lives and breathes art; he takes his work to the absolute next level by putting his life on the line to simply understand the subject of his painting. This is incredibly rare and beautiful in a twisted way. It is undeniably admirable but I can’t help but think of how irresponsible and deranged someone must be do to this to themselves.

  27. It is a bit of a shock to me that Horsley actually tried to imitate crucifixion. As an artist myself, I know it is important to actually understand the topic and theme I want to draw, but what Horsley did was unacceptable to me. I personally think hurting oneself to that point is not a healthy thing to do even though the person himself is okay with that.

  28. When depicting a scene as an artist, it is important to understand the scene. This aids in the integrity of the art. I wonder what Horsley’s main motivation was in wanting to crucify himself, was it just understanding the art or was it because he was truly suicidal?

  29. It is not uncommon for artists to perform ostentatious stunts in the name of “art”. While I did not grow up in the Philippines, the more religious members of my family have some recollection of the numerous Catholic holidays and practices done there. In short, voluntarily nailing oneself to the cross isn’t unheard of and is seen as a passionate expression of their Christian faith. It’s interesting then, that this British artist went to a foreign land to engage in this practice, as it’s probably just as controversial to the Western world. My concern is pointed towards the risky behavior Horsley exhibits, such as this practice or sleeping with a loaded gun by his bed. This being public knowledge, I guess, informs us of his colorful persona, but I wonder why this is just seen as a quirk – that artists “think outside the box” and do things regular people wouldn’t do. The gory act behind his art does draw attention in a similar fashion celebrities getting exaggerated implants does, but why are we, as a society, so drawn towards things that might harm the person doing them?

  30. I think what is fascinating about this “Crucifixion” is that as an artist, you always want to understand what you are painting, etc. Horsley took it another step forward and wanted to understand the pain that Jesus went through as he is trying to draw such a scene. In doing so, he could understand the art in his pain and reflect that when he paints. What I do think is interesting is the fact that this was legal where he went. Like, I am just surprised that he was able to do this and was ok at the end of it because that would hurt and I wouldn’t be able to handle something like that.

  31. I wonder if Horsley’s fascination with death is just another way of saying the artist is suicidal, thus they do all of these extreme potentially fatal things. However, I think it is admirable that the artist wants to go so far as wanting to feel what Jesus felt in order to paint all the emotions that come with being crucified.

  32. I wonder if Horsley’s fascination with death is just another way of saying the artist is suicidal, thus they do all of these extreme potentially fatal things. However, I think it is admirable that the artist wants to go so far as wanting to feel what Jesus felt in order to paint all the emotions that come with being crucified.

  33. It’s interesting that Horsley wanted to go through a real-life experience so he could accurately depict a scene. The fascination with death leads me to believe that he could have had issues with his adrenergic receptors. However, going through with asking people to hammer his wrists and ankles seems very extreme.

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