I considered all the acts of oppression, 1981

Record number

I considered all the acts of oppression

c. 1981 - 1983
synthetic polymer paint
unstretched canvas
1964 x 1810 mm
Extended inscriptions

I considered all the acts of oppression
here under the sun; I SAW the tears of the oppres-ed
and I saw that there was no one to comfort them.
strength was on the side of their oppressors
and their was no one to avenge them.

I counted the dead happy
because they were dead, happier
than the living who were
still in life. More fortunate
than than either I reckoned
man yet unborn, who had not
witnessed the wicked deeds done
here under the SUN.
I considered all toil and
all achievement and saw
that it comes form rivalry
between man and man.
This too is emptiness and
chasing the wind.
The fool folds his arms
and wastes away.

Better one hand full and
peace of mind than both
fists full and toil that is
chasing the wind.

Here again I saw emptiness under
the SUN with out son or brother
toiling endless yet never

Exhibition history

2002 Colin McCahon: A Question of Faith
Stedelijk Museum
30/8/2002 - 10/11/2002


This work was found in the artist's studio after his death in 1987, and is considered to be his last. It is unsigned, undated and probably unfinished. It clearly belongs with the Ecclesiastes-based paintings Is there anything of which we can say look this is new? and I applied my mind which were substantially complete in 1980.
The texts in this painting are drawn from Ecclesiastes 4:1, 2-4, 5-6, from the New English Bible.