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The painting 'Barabbas' by Alfred Manessier is composed of a large number of black, predominantly pointed shapes, alternating with areas of colour in light shades merging together. On the left above the middle of the painting, the black shapes come together to form a circle with protuberances. There is a large purple mark with the outline of an imperfect circle to the right below the middle of the painting and a black edge with some purple and green areas has been painted around the field of light colours. The paint has been applied with a recognizable brushstroke with approximately the same thickness of paint everywhere.
Manessier was a representative of the École de Paris. This term is used as a collective name for the artists who were working mainly in Paris after the Second World War and expressed their experience of nature or the universe in a colourful or abstract way. Their work was created on the basis of feeling. The École de Paris was characterized by a loose touch and attention for the activity of painting. In addition to nature – especially light as it appears in nature – religion was an important source of inspiration for Manessier. In 'Barabbas' he depicted the suffering of Christ. The circle of black dots can be seen as the crown of thorns. This is echoed in the purple mark, which refers to the robe Christ wore when he was mocked at the crucifixion. By using the title 'Barabbas', Manessier referred to the criminal who was pardoned on Good Friday instead of Christ.
In addition to painting and drawing, Manessier was also a designer of carpets and stained glass and was commissioned to do various church windows. 'Barabbas' reveals similarities with the techniques for stained glass because of the black outline with coloured areas inside the outline and the many black shapes which contrast with the soft, glowing and seemingly transparent areas of colour. The pale, orange, yellow, green and pink hues radiate a mysterious light comparable to that in a church or chapel. Manessier’s work is serene and introspective, but at the same time full of vitality and energy. It is an ode to light as the creation of God.
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