The painting caused controversy for a variety of reasons.
Modern art critics felt it was a backward step. As it was painted in such a traditional style, they thought it was another notorious stunt by the artist.
Students from Glasgow School of Art presented a petition at the City Chambers. They felt the money could be better spent encouraging local artists and by providing them with exhibition space.
The Welsh Post-Impressionist painter Augustus John said, ‘I’m with the students all the way. It is absolutely, completely mad and the Corporation should be severely told off…’
However, the reaction of the public was overwhelming. The painting was put on display in June 1952 and within two months had been seen by more than 50,000 people.
Men instinctively took their hats off upon viewing it. High-spirited school groups were hushed to awed silence.
Children seemed to be particularly affected by the picture. One small girl was obviously emotionally impressed. She said nothing until half an hour later, when she said, ‘Mummy, God must have made him do it’.
A moment of notoriety occurred in 1961 when a mentally disturbed visitor attacked and tore the canvas. It has been carefully restored since then, to be admired by countless millions of people.