The raising of Lazarus
Methodist Collection of Modern Christian Art, No.25
Commentary by Francis Hoyland
John Reilly is clearly obsessed with pictorial language, an obsession that lays him open - in a positive as well as sometimes in a slightly negative way - to various influences.
Picasso is a kind of archetype of this painterly mentality, but here Reilly is completely off the Picasso wagon and his work becomes much more original.
Clearly the subject has dictated everything. The rising sun forms the centre of our field of vision and everything circulates about it. All the forms are bent up and round and over by the effects of wide angled vision - we find the same thing happening in Turner's last paintings.
This circling vortex about the sun enables Lazarus to float free of his grave clothes with which he was bound head and foot. In an almost automatic and inevitable way, Christ is swept into the same whirlpool.
The image is clarified by being placed in a contemporary setting and by the figures being given contemporary clothes.
There is a before and after sequence in this painting too. Mary and Martha - if the trousered figure is Martha - are shown both lamenting the death of Lazarus and rejoicing in his resuscitation.
The language of colour has developed enormously over the four years that separate this from the "Healing of the Lunatic Boy". It is unconstrained by linear limits and modulates from blue-black to white through grey-violets and russets towards the triumphant orange which vivifies the rising man and unites him with the sun.