4 September 2011

Stanley Spencer at Compton Verney

In May I posted about Compton Verney and their Alfred Wallis and Ben Nicholson exhibition. Compton Verney’s current shows include Stanley Spencer and the English garden which runs until 2 October, and is well worth seeing.

'Wisteria, Cookham'
Spencer (1891-1959) is well-known for his First World War murals for the Memorial Chapel at Sandham (near Burghclere, Hampshire), which belongs to the National Trust, and for his monumental series of Second World War paintings, Shipbuilding on the Clyde. These are owned by the Imperial War Museum and, although recently restored, have no permanent exhibition space. A selection can be seen until 15 January 2012 at the Stanley Spencer Gallery in Cookham, Berkshire, Spencer’s birthplace.

Spencer was always deeply rooted in Cookham, and even when a student at the Slade before the First World War preferred to commute to London daily. He chose Cookham and its inhabitants as the subjects for his biblical scenes, probably the most famous being The Resurrection, now in the Tate Britain collection. Because of their settings, the religious paintings often include domestic gardens, but, as this exhibition shows, Spencer’s execution of detail comes to the fore in his paintings of flowers, or more prosaically a bunch of onions. Even in the apparently secular scenes, the white picket fences seem to be echoing the crosses at Sandham.

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