Saturday, March 30, 2013
Thursday, March 28, 2013
Wednesday, March 27, 2013
This picture is based on a story told to the artist by his father. In 1910, the tail of Halley's comet created an exceptional sunset, which caused old "Granny" Tubb to fear that the end of the world was near. She knelt by her gate in the High Street in Cookham to pray. Not recalling her features, Spencer replaced them with those of her daughter Sarah. She is comforted by "heavenly visitors," either angels or disciples, who present her with "emblems of what she is like" and "all those things which she loved."
In 1933, Spencer decided to paint scenes of peace & eternal love centred round his hometown village of Cookham. Two of these were Sarah Tubb & the Heavenly Visitors and Villagers & Saints in which saints and angels visit Cookham, making trips round the village and performing benevolent acts. He did not finish this series, but his visions were strong. In his religious paintings, Spencer developed William Blake’s idea that God is found everywhere.
"When I lived in Cookham I was disturbed by a feeling of everything being meaningless. But quite suddenly I became aware that everything was full of special meaning and this made everything holy. The instinct of Moses to take his shoes off when he saw the burning bush was similar to my feelings. I saw many burning bushes in Cookham. I observed this sacred quality in most unexpected quarters." Stanley Spencer, out of Sermons by Artists (1934)
Tuesday, March 26, 2013
Stanley Spencer, (English painter, 1891–1959) Angels of the Apocalypse
"A proud man is seldom a grateful man, for he never thinks he gets as much as he deserves." Henry Ward Beecher (US clergyman, 1813–1887)
Stanley Spencer, (English painter, 1891-1959) Going to Bed
Monday, March 25, 2013
Stanley Spencer painted men working for decades. He was an Official War Artist in both World Wars. His great cycle of wall paintings in the National Trust Sandham Memorial Chapel, Burghclere commemorate his experiences in the RAMC and infantry during the First World War.
The Imperial War Museum in London loaned paintings to augment an exhibition of Stanley Spencer's series on WWII British shipbuilding in 2012. An introduction to the exhibition written by Stanley Spencer Gallery's Curator, Carolyn Leder, explains...
Stanley Spencer, (English painter, 1891 – 1959) Garage 1929
In 1939, Spencer urged his dealer Dudley Tooth to find him 'a war job, some sort of official art employment.' The art market was slack and as Tooth noted Spencer was 'terribly in debt all round'. On Tooth's writing to Sir Kenneth Clark, Director of the National Gallery, and Chairman of the War Artists' Advisory Committee (WAAC) under the Ministry of Information, Spencer was interviewed and appointed. His initial suggestion of a Crucifixion with predella panels to show the Nazi conquest of Poland was rejected.
Instead, he agreed to depict a shipyard, paying his first visit to the suggested 'Kingston' yard, owned by Sir James Lithgow, at Port Glasgow on the river Clyde in May 1940. He responded to the place with enthusiasm...The strong sense of community reminded him of Cookham: 'many of the places in and corners of Lithgow's factory moved me in much the same way as I was by rooms in my childhood.'
During WWII, Spencer depicted all the major trades involved in the building of the ships, including developments in technology, such as the use of welding, which gradually superseded riveting as a method of joining steel plates...They fully engaged his creative imagination: 'The point is that whatever may be thought of these shipbuilding pictures of mine, I am much moved by what I see up here and experience joy in attempting to express the feeling I have about it all…'
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."
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.
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?