Gustave Van de Woestyne himself said that he had a deeply rooted sense of religion. His religious zeal even prompted him to take the next step and enter the Benedictine order in Leuven in 1905. However, the monastic life proved too challenging after just four weeks. Yet, throughout his life, he nurtured an affinity with the religious theme. This reached a dramatically charged climax during the 1920s and 1930s, the most important example of which is the monumental Last Supper.
The work was created against the backdrop of a Catholic revival and the accompanying modernization of religious art. As a letter to the Dutch art collector and patron Jacob de Graaff reveals, Van de Woestyne was receptive to this: ‘Away with this saccharine, stultifying, strait-laced religious art!! We’ve had enough of it, and our Catholic Church is already crammed full of all kinds of such bland stuff. […] I am neither edified nor affected when I enter our churches and look at the modern ornaments, statues or paintings, on the contrary, I have the urge to curse’.
His contemporaries often took issue with his unorthodox religious art, which some of them considered blasphemous. Fortunately, he found support from David and Alice van Buuren, Brussels art collectors who bought many of his works and, in 1927, sponsored a trip to Florence that allowed him to study fresco art with his pupils from the Mechelen Academy. This canvas reflects his interest in fresco painting and his quest for modern religious art.