Robert DOWLING | Sketch for 'The Baptism of Christ'

England 1827 – England 1886
Australia 1834-1857, 1884-1886

Sketch for 'The Baptism of Christ' 1863
oil on canvas
122.3 (h) x 81.7 (w) cm
Queen Victoria Museum and Art Gallery, Launceston , Gift of the Pilgrim Uniting Church 1982

The Baptism of Christ is one of Dowling’s most astonishing religious subjects and one which, for the Baptist artist, meant more than any other. It is based on the Gospel of St Mark: ‘And straightway coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens open and the spirit like a dove descending upon him: And there came a voice from heaven saying, Thou art my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.’

Dowling was brought up in the belief in the practice of adult baptism by immersion, rather than the baptism of infants. He would have witnessed this aspect of his father’s ministry many times. This painting is called ‘Sketch’ because it is a smaller version of a now lost, larger, fourteen-foot (4.27 metre) version with life-size figures.