Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Bible Stories by Stanley Spencer 1891-1959

Stanley Spencer, (English painter, 1891-1959) Making the Columns for the Tower of Babel 1933

The Tower of Babel in the Book of Genesis was reportedly built by a united people  speaking a single language who came to the land of Shinar, where they resolved to settle & build a city with a tower "whose top may reach unto heaven; and let us make us a name, lest we be scattered abroad upon the face of the whole earth."  While contemplating a proposal for a project at Cambridge University Library, Spencer wrote, "I had an idea of putting the Tower of Babel at one end of the library (the confusion of Tongues) & at the other end, the scene of Pentecost where the Disciples are coming from the upper room in to the streets & talking in the tongues of the people from different countries that have come to town."

Stanley Spencer, (English painter, 1891-1959) Marriage at Cana, Bride and Bridegroom 1953

In Christianity, the transformation of water into wine at the Marriage at Cana is the first miracle of Jesus in the Gospel of John.  Spencer saw this story of the wedding feast as a symbol of God's blessing on marriage.  Spencer was a maddening mix of genuine, passionate spirituality & a rather healthy, self-righteous egoism.  Spencer's series on the Marriage at Cana referred to his marriage to his first wife Hilda Carline; which ended in divorce, when he wanted to marry a 2nd woman, a lesbian neighbor Patricia Preece, and have 2 wives.  Four days after the divorce, Spencer married Preece in 1937.  The marriage to Patricia Preece worked out rather badly for Spencer.  He was sexually infatuated, she was passionately in need of cash. Preece went on the honeymoon without Stanley, but with her long-time lover Dorothy Hepworth, a painter whose work Patricia was exhibiting as her own. Patricia & Dorothy lived together from then on.  Patricia took title to Spencer's home & accepted his lavish gifts but never consummated the marriage.  In 1939, Spencer wrote,  "I wish I could have all my real selves around me…like objects in a museum. My great losses are my pictures & Hilda."  Spencer ended up living mostly alone & in squalor.

Stanley Spencer, (English painter, 1891-1959) Scene from the Marriage at Cana in Galilee 1935