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The healing of the lunatic boy

The healing of the lunatic boy
John Reilly (1928-2010)



Methodist Collection of Modern Christian Art, No.24

Commentary by Francis Hoyland

Here again (see also No. 23) Reilly has given us an image of 'before' and 'after' but this time yellow is almost the home key.

Its antithesis is the blue-grey which looks slightly violet because of the way our eyes react to very strong statements of colour - we tend to see the complementary of the strong colour - in this case a violet - into a relatively neutral expanse placed near or next to it.

The only true violets in the painting are the shadowed areas of Our Lord's cuffs and other 'robes' which tell in quite a different way.

Reilly's language of signs is very apparent in this painting, indeed it could hardly go farther without becoming caricature - something that does happen in Picasso. Other influences besides that of Picasso seem to be present - Bernard Buffet, perhaps and maybe Giacometti's 'Man Pointing', both seem to have affected the figure of Christ, but here again the secular has become sanctified.

Vertical and horizontal lines divide the space into definite areas which act in counterpoint to the more fluent lines of the figures. The effect is rather like that of a sturdy choral tune intruding on the baroque counterpoint of one of the 'numbers' of a Bach cantata. It steadies things up.

Every time a painting is made a process of selection takes place. One cannot paint all the leaves on a tree or tell all the ins and outs of a story. Reilly has concentrated on the distressed boy and his parents on the right and the child in his right mind together with Jesus on the left.

The actual moment of healing is not shown, neither is the marvellous dialogue in St Luke's account between Our Lord and the father of the boy. 'Everything is possible for anyone who has faith' 'I do have faith. Help the little faith I have' or in another translation 'Lord I believe - help thou my unbelief'.

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