John Reilly (1928-2010)

Oil on canvas, laid down on board

92 x 124 cm


Methodist Modern Art Collection
No. REI/1962/1

Image Copyright © Trustees for Methodist Church Purposes. The Methodist Church Registered Charity no. 1132208

Biblical commentary

Genesis 4: 1–12

Cain’s fenced farmland, under intensive cultivation, and Abel’s extensive sheep runs are clearly delineated in the rolling landscape. The acceptance of Abel’s gift of a sacrificial lamb is represented by a bright and open area in which he and his herds are placed, with a vortex of light representing God’s acceptance of his gift, which descends from heaven and bathes him in its glow. Cain, in contrast, is in a closely defined, darker area, with his rejected sheaf of corn. He directs a murderous look at Abel while digging his land. Reilly has placed his portrayal of Cain and Abel at the point between the gifts to God and the murder. Cain’s anger and hate are visibly conveyed by his demeanour, look and stocky stature (in stark contrast to Abel’s tall, willowy grace).

Commentary based on A Guide to the Methodist Art Collection.