'Christ blessing the little children', Benjamin Robert Haydon

Christ is in the centre of a circle of different people with his arms outstretched. The people behind him are in shadow, but the people in front of him are in a bright light.

Oil on canvas, painted in 1837

Accession number WAG 10632

With the command, “suffer the little children to come unto me”, Christ insisted to his unwilling disciples that his ministry extended even to the very young. This painting was commissioned by the Liverpool School for the Blind in 1837 as a companion to a work by William Hilton (1786-1839), Christ restoring sight to the blind (also in the Walker’s collection). Both paintings hung in the chapel of the school, and together they summed up the purpose and mission of the institution.

Haydon was the leading British exponent of ‘high art’ in the manner of the great Italian artists of the Renaissance, and many of his paintings were styled on the grand canvases of Titian (about 1487-1576) and Veronese (about 1528-88). Conscious that few contemporaries shared his idealistic artistic beliefs and aspirations, Haydon eventually committed suicide in a fit of depression.

An extended study of 'Christ blessing the little children'| is also available online as part of our Artwork of the Month series.