Wednesday, April 30, 2014
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.
Monday, April 28, 2014
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
Saturday, April 26, 2014
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?
Thursday, April 24, 2014
Tuesday, April 22, 2014
Sunday, April 20, 2014
Stanley Spencer, (English painter, 1891 – 1959) Cottages at Burghclere
Stanley Spencer allows reality to dominate in his silent landscapes & intimate portraits. My landscapes, he once wrote, are places waiting for their figures. "My landscapes compared with my other work are carried out with a hard relentless persistence and dogged determination to go through with it, which gives them a competent and finished but lifeless and hard look," he complained. Once Spencer injects figures into his landscapes, they become stories & reality gets distorted. "Distortion arrives from the effort to see something in a way that will enable [the painter] to love it." Stanley Spencer, out of Sermons by Artists (1934)
Stanley Spencer, (English painter, 1891 – 1959) Cookham Farm Gate 1950
Stanley Spencer, (English painter, 1891-1959) Old Tannery Mills, Gloucestershire 1939
Stanley Spencer, (English painter, 1891 – 1959) Chestnuts
Stanley Spencer, (English painter, 1891 – 1959) Rock Gardens, Cookham Dene
Stanley Spencer, (English painter, 1891 – 1959) Cows
Stanley Spencer, (English painter, 1891-1959) Buttercups in a Meadow
Stanley Spencer, (English painter, 1891 – 1959) Apple Gatherers 1912-13
Stanley Spencer, (English painter, 1891 – 1959) Landscape in North Wales
Stanley Spencer, (English painter, 1891 – 1959) Gardening
Stanley Spencer, (English painter, 1891-1959) Cockmarsh Hill Cookham 1935
Stanley Spencer, (English painter, 1891 – 1959) Saint Francis and the Birds
Stanley Spencer, (English painter, 1891-1959) Scarecrow, Cookham 1934
Stanley Spencer, (English painter, 1891-1959) Sunflower and Dog Worship 1937
Stanley Spencer, (English painter, 1891 – 1959) Cookham
Friday, April 18, 2014
Although Stanley Spencer's portraits are brutally realistic & stripped of allegorical references, he wrote, "Every thing or person other than myself is a future potential part of myself, or a revealer of and an agent in revealing unknown parts of myself: unknown husbands, wives, lovers, worshippers, never before seen and only known by a persistent desire or passionate longing, supported by a kind of consciousness of their existence." Stanley Spencer, out of Sermons by Artists (1934)