Stations of the Cross: Barnett Newman

I had previously mentioned my daughter, H. Marie, who has a minor in art history.  She contributed to the post of January 22, 2011 entitled Similar Language – Different Contexts and Expressions.  H. Marie now contributes the following, which I think may be helpful to interpret some of the paintings of the Passion which I have already posted.  Stations of the Cross is a traditional, organized and comprehensive practice to contemplate the Passion.  – Curator explanation Barnett’s style – explanation of technique, Zips  – To Your Hand in Mind, 8min video showing best detail of stations – Stations with Mozart’s Requiem”barnett+newman+images+of+stations+of+the+cross” – pages 49-63 Full images of paintings

Newman’s interpretation of the stations may be hard for some viewers at first look because of the abstraction versus a more classic story-telling piece of traditional religious art work.  Newman’s focus was to break through the theatrical, “merely interesting” beauty of art to develop emotional, intellectual art with sustainable conviction.  Newman predicted that “the art of the future will…be an art that is abstract yet full of feeling.”

Newman chose a simple color palette, black, white, and canvas to evoke a sense of light within and throughout the canvas.  His unique style of “zips” was created as a way to separate areas of color by thin vertical lines that not only define spatial structure but also creates some amount of tension that divides and/or unites the composition.

The Stations of the Cross is a series of paintings subtitled “Lema sabachtani” or “why have you forsaken me” – words spoken by Christ on the cross and a question asked by many throughout experienced turmoil.

Below are quotes directly from the paper cited above about how viewers may interpret Newman’s Stations of the Cross:

“Viewers must, therefore, hold the emotional or metaphysical subject matter of the title

in the minds and allow their consideration of it to be conditioned by the painting in front of them.”

“The Stations are thus extremely compelling, for they are the clearest example of how this synthesis of abstract form and content can be constructive. Viewers begin with the title The Stations of the Cross, and thus consider Jesus, the Passion, God, life and death, and all that goes with the Christian Stations. Most of all, however, they will consider suffering and the question of “why?” particularly if they are given the subtitle Lema Sabachthani or are familiar with any of Newman’s discussions of the paintings. What this means initially will be different for different viewers. Some may themselves be Christians and believe in a divine plan that includes and justifies suffering, others may bring secular philosophical explanations to the topic, while still others may not have any particular answer. Regardless, each will have suffering and the question of its purpose or justification in mind.”

The Stations themselves are usually a series of 14 pictures or sculptures depicting the following scenes:

Jesus is condemned to death

Jesus is given his cross

Jesus falls the first time

Jesus meets His Mother

Simon of Cyrene carries the cross

Veronica wipes the face of Jesus

Jesus falls the second time

Jesus meets the daughters of Jerusalem

Jesus falls the third time

Jesus is stripped of His garments

Crucifixion: Jesus is nailed to the cross

Jesus dies on the cross

Jesus’ body is removed from the cross (Deposition or Lamentation)

Jesus is laid in the tomb and covered in incense.

A more traditional Stations of the Cross is presented at Église Notre-Dame des Champs (Avranches), which may be found at


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