New Zealand, Auckland Art Gallery: I was there this afternoon. When I saw this painting, I thought of the ‘Eerie’ photo theme…
In nineteenth-century literature and paintings I’ve come to expect bereaved women to wear black, so when I worked out that the women and girls in white were not celebrating but grieving, I was a bit shocked. All these white dresses suddenly took on a pallour that moments before had in my mind been the colour of a wedding or communion. It’s particularly sad to see, not men, but women bearing the small white coffin.
Frank Bramley combined social realism with painting en plein air, out of doors. There don’t seem to be any male children in the cortège, but there are some boys in the group of children off to the right, who seem to belong to fishing families. Their ruddiness suggests they are healthier than the girls, who look a bit grey, as though they may all be afflicted by the same curse.
If ‘eerie’ means strange and frightening, the suggestion of something lurking that we might not want to know about, then this photo is it.