Sunday, March 24, 2013
Stanley Spencer, (English painter, 1891-1959) Christ Preaching at the Cookham Regatta, Regatta, Unfinished
In this series, done at the end of his life, Stanley Spencer remembers his childhood joy at the Cookham Regatta, where rich and poor gathered to celebrate. Class differences were important to Spencer in this series. Here Christ is envisioned preaching to those gathered for the regatta from his punt, an old horse-ferry barge no longer used in Cookham, when Spencer painted this. Spencer wrote in a letter of the contrast between the simple image of Christ and "the stalwart, prosperous, white-trousered proprietor of the Hotel" surveying the profitable scene from his lawn. Spencer believed that most folks, rich & poor, are redeemable, & he preferred to paint them in an imagined redeemed state. Transformed by the universality of Christ's message, most people in these paintings, whatever their social class, are passing into a state of drowsy, true, & total happiness because of the promise of The Last Day.
Stanley Spencer, (English painter, 1891-1959) Christ Preaching at the Cookham Regatta Conversation between Punts 1955
Stanley Spencer wrote of the ladies in the punts, "They are nearly all middle-class ladies and all either asleep or nearly so. They have had a tiring day dismissing servants, and they are all going bye-byes under a shared blanket. Ah, then my Puck magic gets to work. The Christ-talk o'ercrows all these bothersome things and they sleep their way into this critical no-servant-dismissing joy and peace. I don't love them in their hoity-toity-ness. I love them because I know this is not them at all and that they are just as lovable as the servants they dismiss, and that's saying a lot! Bringing them to the Regatta, I so to speak ensnare them and bring them to my joy, which in this painting is Christ's joy.
"This all expresses to me the fact that I want all to know that what they wish for will be received. That if the Regatta is voluptuous, then let it be so. The Christ talk is that their joy may be full. If it is carnal wishes, they will be fulfilled. If it is sexual desires or picture-making inspiration that is to be satisfied, then Christ will heave the capstan round. All will be met. Everything will be fulfilled in the symbol of the Regatta. The complete worshipfulness and lovableness of everything to do with love is meant in this Regatta scene. In that marvellous atmosphere nothing can go wrong."
Stanley Spencer, (English painter, 1891-1959) Christ Preaching at the Cookham Regatta, Dinner on the Hotel Lawn 1957
Stanley Spencer, (English painter, 1891-1959) Christ Preaching at the Cookham Regatta, Punts Meeting 1953
Stanley Spencer, (English painter, 1891-1959) Christ Preaching at the Cookham Regatta, Girls Listening 1953
Stanley Spencer, (English painter, 1891-1959) Christ Preaching at the Cookham Regatta Listening from the Punts 1954
In ''Christ's Entry Into Jerusalem,'' the scene is set in the High Street at Cookham, Spencer's home village. Here townsfolk run down their garden paths, trampling their precious dooryard plants, to watch and join the amazing procession.
"When I was young about the village as a child, I was aware of a wonderful something which was everywhere to be felt, it was bang all around me, it was heaven as clear as the Cookham day" Stanley Spencer
To Spencer it was all quite simple. Why shouldn't Christ carry his Cross through the High Street, past brick houses & iron railings, beneath the gaze of women who watch from windows, where lace curtains blow?