Descent From the Cross

 Bill Barrell contemplates religion and the influence it has on life – and his paintings.

Descent from the Cross, oil on canvas, 70" x 46", 1975

–  My mother and father came from different religions.

 Mother belonged to Church of England, Father was a Catholic. His was a very strict catholic upbringing. He was an altar boy, went to daily masses and attended a private catholic school.  I believe the catholic religion did irreparable damage to him because he went through life feeling guilty, especially when he later deserted the church. My mother attended her church once in a while on Sundays, but was not an avid follower. When they married they agreed that the boys would be Catholic and the girls Church of England. They ended up with three boys and two girls, none of whom ever became overly religious.

I recall going to Sunday school when I was six years old. I remember some of the parables such as, “The Good Samaritan” and things like “Do unto others as you would have them done unto you”. These few things stuck, but it is all I remember. I am a non-believer today but I do believe in being good to my fellow human. I have known people to invoke god such as, it’s in god’s hands, or it is god’s will, or in god we trust which I find aggravating that the problem is pushed onto some entity that does not exist instead of dealing with the problem themselves.

 At the same time, I believe strongly that people have the right to believe in whatever or whoever they wish.

From time to time while painting, I have taken themes from religous situations such as I have from other subjects like war and inhumane behavior (which I don’t believe in either).  The crucifixion of Christ set the stage for a division of believers and hence some bad feelings that we still feel the effects of to this day. I feel that religions are responsible for most of the turmoil on this planet and that we would be better off without any of them. I know this is wishful thinking because people will always create something to hang on to.

There was a lot of pain for many people when he was taken down from the cross. People wept. But as in the French Revolution, there were far too many that enjoyed crucifixions no matter who they were crucifying. In this painting, I wanted to show the anguish and sorrow of those who loved him and the peace on his face that seems to have gone from great suffering to oblivion, to be no more.

One thought on “Descent From the Cross”

  1. thanks for that. As a ‘church affiliation confused offspring’ of the pairing of your parents that explanation helps me see the bigger picture.

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