Henry Alexander Bowler

The Doubt: ‘Can these Dry Bones Live?’

exhibited 1855

In Tate Britain
Artist
Henry Alexander Bowler 1824–1903
Medium
Oil paint on canvas
Dimensions
Support: 610 x 508 mm
frame: 788 x 685 x 100 mm
Collection
Tate
Acquisition
Presented by H. Archer Bowler 1921
Reference
N03592

Display caption

This young woman, leaning on the gravestone of a man called John Faithful, is contemplating religious doubt. In particular, the Christian belief that the dead will be resurrected on the Day of Judgement. Long-standing religious beliefs were being disrupted at the time this was painted. New scientific publications explored theories of evolution, challenging literal readings of the Bible. Her question appears to be answered by the growing chestnut tree and the stone at its base, carved with the word Resurgam’, which translates as ‘I shall rise again’. The blue butterfly on the skull symbolizes the human spirit.

Gallery label, August 2018

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