Frederick Walker

The Harbour of Refuge

1872

Medium
Oil paint on canvas
Dimensions
Support: 1168 x 1975 mm
Collection
Tate
Acquisition
Presented by Sir William Agnew Bt 1893
Reference
N01391

Display caption

This painting was inspired by a group of elderly people seen sitting outside a church. The background was painted at the Jesus Hospital at Bray, near Maidenhead. The theme is the passage of time and the inevitability of death. Youth is contrasted with age, vigour with decrepitude, and death is symbolised by the scythe wielded by the young man. The old men beneath the statue listen to a man reading, but they also wait for the end of their lives. The warm glow of sunset signals the end of the day, but also provides an atmosphere of human resignation in the face of death.

Gallery label, September 2004