For of Such is the Kingdom of Heaven, by Frank Bramley, RA (1857-1915). 1891. Oil on canvas. 2166 x 2872 mm. Mackelvie Trust Collection, Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki, accession no. M1913/1. Identified on the gallery website as having "[n]o known copyright restrictions."

This scene of an infant's funeral procession is one of the most touching and memorable of Bramley's works: Lionel Lambourne calls it "remarkable ... a moving study of a cortège all dressed in white" (345). The children in front are not all in white — there are shades of peach and yellow in there too, and the flowers are yellow and white, probably chrysanthemums. The girls form a little choir, singing from hymn-books. Onlookers pause, sympathizing. there is an extraordinary contrast between the group of passing mourners and the sense of everyday life in the small huddle of children at the right, one carrying a basket of vegetables (though this one's patched sleeve makes it look as if he is wearing a black armband). A man at the back of the mourners is carrying a platter on his head, with what looks like a loaf on it. In the midst of life there is death.

The Art Journal critic, Claude Phillips, was not completely impressed. He wrote, "Somehow here, although there is perfect sincerity and a commendable truth and reticence in the display of feeling, the right note is not quite struck; perhaps because Mr Bramley, having foresworn the artificialities of composition, has not been able without them to emphasise sufficiently the main motive of his picture" (196). Perhaps we are more prepared to find our own meaning in a painting now, and, often enough, more than one. — Jacqueline Banerjee

Related Material


Lambourne, Lionel. Victorian Painting. London and New York: Phaidon, 1999.

Phillips, Claude. "The Summer Exhibitions at Home and Abroad III. — The Royal Academy and New Gallery." The Art Journal. 53 (July 1891): 193-200. Google Books. Web. 11 March 2021.

Created 11 March 2021