Stanley Spencer is one of the dominant figures of twentieth-century British art. This major
exhibition will bring together over one hundred of his paintings and drawings from private
and public collections around the world. It aims to present a concise retrospective of one
of Britain's best-loved painters, with emphasis on the particularly intense period of the
1930s. The exhibition will include a strong selection of the great, well-known works, but
also many less familiar works, which have never been seen before.
In addition there will
be two specially made films; the first presenting the murals in the Sandham Memorial
Chapel at Burghclere, the second a digital recreation of the Church-House project,
Spencer's imagined space for much of his later work.
Stanley Spencer (1891-1959) was an outstanding student at the Slade School of Art in
London, and the first section of the exhibition is devoted to his early work reflecting the
dual influence of Giotto and Gauguin. This early flowering culminates in masterpieces
such as The Nativity (1912, University College London) and Zacharias and Elizabeth
(1914, recently purchased jointly by Tate and Sheffield City Art Gallery); in both a biblical
theme is embedded within the landscape of the Berkshire village of Cookham where he
grew up and lived for much of his life.
His experiences of the First World War became the inspiration for the Burghclere Chapel
series (1927-32). But in the 1930s Spencer's imagery was fuelled by marital and stylistic
crisis, resulting in a flow of extraordinary paintings: the naked portraits of Patricia Preece,
the often under-appreciated landscapes, the Beatitudes of Love series and the Last
Day series for Church House, the Christ in the Wilderness sequence (loaned from
Perth, Australia) - all of these pointing in contradictory directions.
The Second World War saw Spencer as an official war artist commissioned to paint the
shipyard at Port Glasgow in Scotland, and a return to images of his first wife Hilda, such
as Love Letters lent by the Thyssen Foundation, and Hilda and I at Pond Street, made
four years after her death, from the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago. Throughout the
show there is a continuing theme of Spencer's self-portraits, ending with the very poignant
image of 1959 when he already knew he was dying from cancer.
A fully illustrated catalogue accompanies the exhibition. The exhibition is curated by the
artist and writer Timothy Hyman and the cultural historian, Patrick Wright.
The Resurrection, Cookham 1924-7
Presented by W. Graham Robertson 1939