Frank Bramley

A Hopeless Dawn

1888

Medium
Oil paint on canvas
Dimensions
Support: 1226 x 1676 mm
Collection
Tate
Acquisition
Presented by the Trustees of the Chantrey Bequest 1888
Reference
N01627

Display caption

The title of this painting comes from a passage by John Ruskin, which affirms that Christ is at the helm of every boat. The kneeling woman, comforted by her mother-in-law, realises that her husband is lost at sea, but the open Bible, altar-like table and print on the wall hint at the consolations of religion.

Gallery label, May 2007

Catalogue entry

N01627 A HOPELESS DAWN 1888
 
Inscr. ‘Frank Bramley. 88’ b.l.
Canvas, 48 1/4×66 (122·5×168).
Chantrey Purchase from the artist 1888.
Exh: R.A., 1888 (351); Recently Deceased Members, R.A., winter 1922 (141).
Lit: Alice Meynell, ‘Newlyn’ in Art Journal, 1889, p.100; Art Journal, 1890, p.45, repr. facing p.33 from engraving by James Dobie.
Repr: The Nation's Pictures, 1901, 1, p.19 (in colour); Tate Gallery Illustrations, 1928, pl.73; Hesketh Hubbard, A Hundred Years of British Painting 1851–1951, 1951, pl.51.

Painted at Newlyn, Cornwall, and exhibited at the R.A. with the following quotation from Ruskin:

‘Human effort and sorrow going on perpetually from age to age; waves rolling for ever and winds moaning, and faithful hearts wasting and sickening for ever, and brave lives dashed away about the rattling beach like weeds for ever; and still, at the helm of every lonely boat, through starless night and hopeless dawn, His hand, who spreads the fisher's net over the dust of the Sidonian palaces, and gave unto the fisher's hand the keys of the kingdom of heaven.’

The print after Raphael's cartoon of ‘Christ giving the Keys to St Peter’ represented on the wall on the right has evidently been placed there deliberately to bear out the text. An open Bible lies in front of the missing fisherman's mother who is comforting the young wife. A candle placed on the window-sill as a beacon has flickered out.

Published in:
Mary Chamot, Dennis Farr and Martin Butlin, The Modern British Paintings, Drawings and Sculpture, London 1964, I