|Sir Stanley Spencer|
Self-portrait, 1959, final year of his life
|Birth name||Stanley Spencer|
30 June 1891|
|Died||14 December 1959
Cliveden, Buckinghamshire England
|Training||Maidenhead Technical Institute; The Slade|
|Works||The Resurrection, Cookham|
|Patrons||Louis and Mary Behrend|
|Awards||Knighted in 1959|
Sir Stanley Spencer KCB CBE RA (30 June 1891 – 14 December 1959) was an English painter. Much of his work depicts Biblical scenes, from miracles to Crucifixion, happening not in the Holy Land but in the small Thames-side village where he was born and spent most of his life. He referred to Cookham as "a village in Heaven." Fellow-villagers frequently stand in for their Gospel counterparts, lending Christian teachings an eerie immediacy. Spencer's most famous work is the Sandham Memorial Chapel.
From 1908 to 1912, Spencer studied at the Slade School of Art at University College, London under Henry Tonks and others. His contemporaries at the Slade included Dora Carrington, Mark Gertler, Paul Nash, Edward Wadsworth, Isaac Rosenberg and David Bomberg. So profound was his attachment to the village of his birth that most days he would take the train back home in time for tea. It even became his nickname: his fellow student C.R.W. Nevinson dubbed him Cookham, a name which Spencer himself took to using for a time.
After a long period of agonising whether or not to join up, in 1915 Spencer volunteered to serve with the Royal Army Medical Corps and worked as an orderly at the Beaufort War Hospital (which later became Glenside). In 1916, the 24-year-old Spencer volunteered for service with the RAMC in Macedonia, and served with the 68th Field Ambulance unit. He subsequently volunteered to be transferred to the Berkshire Regiment. His survival of the devastation and torment that killed so many of his fellows indelibly marked Spencer's attitude to life and death. Such preoccupations come through time and again in his religious works.
Towards the end of the war he was commissioned by the War Artists Advisory Committee to paint what became Travoys Arriving with Wounded at a Dressing Station at Smol, Macedonia, September 1916 (now in the Imperial War Museum). It was visibly the consequence of Spencer's experience in the medical corps. A further major commission was to paint murals for the Sandham Memorial Chapel in Burghclere dedicated to the war dead. The altarpiece depicts the Resurrection of the Soldiers.
In 1939, he went on a painting holiday at the suggestion of one of his friends, William Rothenstein, to Leonard Stanley in Gloucestershire. This holiday extended to two years; Stanley stayed at the White Hart Inn and created many of his important works in his room above the bar which he used as a studio, including 'Us in Gloucestershire' and 'The Wool Shop'.
Spencer's work as a war artist in the Second World War included his epic depiction of shipbuilding workers and their families at Port Glasgow on the Clyde. When the war ended he again took up, as did certain other British neo-romantic artists of the time, his visionary preoccupations — in Spencer's case with a sometimes apocalyptic tinge.
Marriages and later years
In 1925, Spencer married Hilda Carline, then a student at the Slade and sister of the artist Richard Carline. A daughter, Shirin, was born in November of that year and a second daughter, Unity, in 1930. Spencer met the artist Patricia Preece in 1929 in Cookham. He became infatuated with her. Carline divorced Spencer in 1937. A week later he married Preece, who persuaded him to sign over his house to her; she, however, was a lesbian. She continued to live with her partner, Dorothy Hepworth, and though she frequently posed nude for her husband, she refused to consummate the marriage. When Spencer’s bizarre relationship with Preece finally fell apart (though she would never grant a divorce), he would visit Hilda, an arrangement that continued throughout the latter's subsequent mental breakdown. Hilda died from cancer in November 1950. The painful intricacies of this three-way relationship became the subject in 1996 of a play by the feminist playwright Pam Gems. Titled Stanley, it starred Anthony Sher, at the National Theatre and, later, on Broadway. Nominated for a Tony Award, it won the Olivier Best New Play award for 1997.
Spencer has been the subject of several biographies. The diminutive survivor of turmoil domestic and military is depicted in his later years as a "small man with twinkling eyes and shaggy grey hair, often wearing his pyjamas under his suit if it was cold." He became a "familiar sight, wandering the lanes of Cookham pushing the old pram in which he carried his canvas and easel." The pram, black and battered, has somehow survived, to become the most curious exhibit in the Stanley Spencer Gallery in Cookham, which is dedicated to its owner's life and works.
When a member of a British Council delegation to China not long before his death, Spencer is said to have introduced himself to Premier Zhou Enlai with the words, "Hello, I'm Stanley from Cookham."
Spencer has been described as an early modernist painter. His works often express his fervent if unconventional Christian faith. This is especially evident in the scenes that he envisioned and depicted in Cookham. Very evident in these too is the compassion that he felt for his fellow residents. His quirky romantic and sexual obsessions were also expressed within this home environment, but it is a mistake to regard him merely as some sort of quaint village innocent, inextricably tied to small-town England. His works originally provoked great shock and controversy. Nowadays, they still seem stylistic and experimental, whilst the nudes that arose through the futile relationship with Patricia Preece, such as the Leg of mutton nude, foreshadow some of the much later works of Lucian Freud, who expressed admiration for Spencer.
Spencer's early work is regarded as a synthesis of French Post-Impressionism, exemplified for instance by Paul Gauguin, plus early Italian painting typified by Giotto. This was a conscious choice, and Spencer was a key member of a group who called themselves the "Neo-Primitives." Allied with him were David Bomberg, William Roberts and other young contemporaries at the Slade.
His most ambitious work was the consequence of his Great War experiences: a cycle of 19 wall paintings for the Sandham Memorial Chapel (see above), which took five years to complete. During the Second World War, he was recruited by the War Artists' Advisory Committee to help in the war effort by recording activities that were taking place on the home front. Spencer chose to paint Clyde shipbuilders at work; when the war ended, he was in the process of planning a three-tier frieze 70 feet long representing their work.
Today, works such as The Resurrection, Cookham (1923–27), clearly set in the village and with actual residents taking part, rarely come up for auction, but when they do, they sell for immense sums. However, during Spencer's lifetime, it was his landscapes that were in demand. His dealer would press him to produce more, but Spencer expressed impatience, and professed that they were a chore. Nevertheless these landscapes of Cookham and its environs are still favored by many of the public.
In November 2006, the Imperial War Museum asked Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson to lead a campaign to fund restoration of Spencer's paintings of Port Glasgow's shipyards in wartime and certain other works. Ferguson, whose father, brother and an uncle were working in the yards while the artist was there, took up the challenge.
Spencer's house near Cookham Rise Primary school is still in private occupation. The village's Methodist Chapel where the artist worshipped is today the Stanley Spencer Gallery. It mounts two exhibitions a year and holds over 100 items of his work.
Spencer was cremated and his ashes laid in Cookham Churchyard, beside the path through to Bellrope Meadow. A discreet marble memorial marks the spot.
- David Boyd Haycock, A Crisis of Brilliance (2009)
- "Glenside museum hosts a Stanley Spencer tour". University of the West of England. Retrieved 2009-11-18.
- Paul Gough, Journey to Burghclere (2006)
- Spencer, Stanley, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, accessed 2 June 2011
- Elliott, Vicky. Lives Laid Bare – The second wife of the British painter Stanley Spencer..." SF Gate, San Francisco Chronicle, 19 July 1998, accessed 2 June 2011
- "Sir Stanley Spencer Stands Alone". BBC World Service. 2001-07-14. Front Page > Arts, Music and Entertainment. Retrieved 14 September 2007.
- Fiona MacCarthy, Stanley Spencer; an English Vision (1997)
- Bellrope Meadow 1936 Rochdale Art Gallery
- Stanley Spencer Summer Exhibition
- Brooks, Richard (19 November 2006). "Alex Ferguson leads battle to save war art". The Times (London). Retrieved 24 May 2010.
- Anthony d'Offay (Firm), Stanley Spencer, and Hilda Spencer. Stanley and Hilda Spencer. London: Anthony d'Offay, 1978.
- Art: Stanley Spencer, Eccentric. Newsweek. 130, no. 20: 92. 1997
- Bell, Keith, and Stanley Spencer. Stanley Spencer: A Complete Catalogue of the Paintings. London: Phaidon Press, 1993. ISBN 0-8109-3836-7
- Glew, Adrian. Stanley Spencer Letters and Writings. London: Tate Publishing, 2001. ISBN 1-85437-350-1
- Gough, Paul. Stanley Spencer: Journey to Burghclere. Bristol: Sansom and Company, 2006. ISBN 1-904537-46-4
- Gough, Paul. A Terrible Beauty’: British Artists in the First World War. Bristol: Sansom and Company, 2010. ISBN 1-906593-00-0
- Hauser, Kitty, and Stanley Spencer. Stanley Spencer. British artists. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 2001. ISBN 0-691-09024-6
- Haycock, David Boyd (2009). A Crisis of Brilliance: Five Young British Artists and the Great War. London, Old Street Publishing. ISBN 978-1-905847-84-6.
- MacCarthy,Fiona.Stanley Spencer , An English Vision Yale University Press, 1997 ISBN 0-300-07337-2
- Pople, Kenneth. Stanley Spencer: A Biography. London: Collins, 1991. ISBN 0-00-215320-3
- Robinson, Duncan. Stanley Spencer. Oxford: Phaidon, 1990. ISBN 0-7148-2616-2
- Shepherd, Rosemary. Stanley Spencer and Women. [S.l.]: Ardent Art Publications, 2001.
- Spencer, Stanley. A Guided Walk Round Stanley Spencer's Cookham. [Cookham?]: Estate of Stanley Spencer, 1994.
- Spencer, Stanley, and Fiona MacCarthy. Stanley Spencer: An English Vision. [New Haven, Conn.]: Yale University Press in association with the British Council and the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC, 1997. ISBN 0-300-07426-3
- Spencer, Stanley, and Gilbert Spencer. Gilbert and Stanley Spencer in Cookham: An Exhibition at the Stanley Spencer Gallery, Cookham 14 May – 31 August 1988. Cookham: Stanley Spencer Gallery, 1988.
- Spencer, Stanley, and John Rothenstein. Stanley Spencer, the Man: Correspondence and Reminiscences. Athens: Ohio University Press, 1979. ISBN 0-8214-0431-8
- Thomas, Alison, and Timothy Wilcox. The Art of Hilda Carline: Mrs. Stanley Spencer. London: Usher Gallery, 1999. ISBN 0-85331-776-3
|Wikiquote has a collection of quotations related to: Stanley Spencer|
- Stanley Spencer Gallery
- Ten Dreams Galleries
- Sandham Memorial Chapel
- Art and Vision of Stanley Spencer
- Berkshire History biography
- Tate Gallery
- Love, Desire, Faith: Kendal exhibition, 2002
- 251 Spencer images
- Stanley at the National Portrait Gellery
- Stanley in Leonard Stanley Gloucestershire - Stonehouse History Group