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in the building of the ships, including developments in technology, such as the use of welding, which gradually superseded riveting as a method of joining steel plates...They fully engaged his creative imagination: 'The point is that whatever may be thought of these shipbuilding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…'