ART 4 2-DAY 14 December v.9.20
Died on 14 December 1959: Stanley Spencer,
Berkshire British painter and draftsman born on 30 June 1891. One
of his teachers was Henry Tonks. [click image for Self~Portraits >]
— Spencer received his first formal training in 1907 at the Maidenhead Technical Institute, Berkshire. A year later he enrolled at the Slade School, London, where, as a day student, he remained until 1912. In that year his painting The Nativity was awarded both the Melville Nettleship and the Composition prizes. It shows the wide range of his early influences, from 15th-century Renaissance painting to the Pre-Raphaelites and Post-Impressionism: just as Le Christ Jaune (1889, 92x73cm; 1048x822pix, 158kb) of Gauguin was set in Pont Aven, Spencer’s similarly Neo-primitive Holy Family is placed in Mill Lane, Cookham. By then Spencer had firmly established his birthplace at the centre of his spiritual universe. He wrote, ‘When I left the Slade and went back to Cookham, I entered a kind of earthly paradise. Everything seemed fresh and to belong to the morning. My ideas were beginning to unfold in fine order when along comes the war and smashes everything.’
— Spencer peopled paintings of his native Berkshire village of Cookham with biblical figures. While at the Slade School of Art from 1908 to 1912, Spencer was nicknamed 'Cookham' by his contemporaries who included Paul Nash, Christopher Wynne Nevinson and David Bomberg. He cut an eccentric figure throughout his life. 1.57 m in height, Spencer wheeled his artistic equipment around Cookham in a child's pram in later life, and sketched on long rolls of toilet paper during his commission for the World War II Shipbuilding on the Clyde series of paintings. Although he is now recognized as one of the most important twentieth century artists, his work received a mixed reception during his lifetime. The sexual nature of some works was considered shocking by a nation who banned publication of D.H.Lawrence's Lady Chatterley's Lover in 1928. The nude portraits of his second wife Patricia Preece, painted in the 1930s, explore in detail the fleshiness of her body. In some works Spencer included himself as a viewer, staring intensely at Preece. They display Spencer's frustration with their marriage in which he was only ever allowed to look, not touch. Preece was a lesbian and already committed to her partner Dorothy Hepworth. Soon after marrying Spencer in 1937, she excluded him from Lindworth (in Cookham) where he had lived with his first wife, Hilda Carline. The Beatitudes of Love series, painted in 1938, also demonstrate the overtly sexual nature of some of his work, featuring unlikely and unattractive couples with sometimes graphically sexual text.
— Love, Death and Resurrection: The Paintings of Stanley Spencer
— Self-Portrait (1914, 63x51cm; 1024x828pix, 37kb) _ This is Spencer’s first self-portrait in oils. In its dark and rich color harmonies and its strongly modelled form, the painting attempts to emulate the style of an Old Master painting. Spencer recalled that he was inspired to paint it in this manner after seeing a reproduction of a head of Christ by an Italian Renaissance artist called Luini. The portrait was painted in the front bedroom of Spencer’s family home, Fernlea, at Cookham, Berkshire.
— Self-Portrait (1959) _ This is Spencer's final self-portrait and one of his last paintings. In December 1958 he discovered that he was suffering from cancer and underwent an operation. Unfortunately the malignancy was not excised and Spencer died one year later. Five months before his death he stayed with friends in Yorkshire where he painted this portrait. Although seriously ill he finished the picture in five days, in the drawing room of the house, using a bedroom mirror. The work is remarkable for the unflinching scrutiny of the artist's gaze, and its use of extreme close-up to convey a sense of physical and psychological intensity.
— Apple Gatherers (1913, 71x92cm) _ The subject was given to the artist by his Slade School of Art teachers and it took him a year to arrive at the finished composition. Minor alterations are visible throughout the painting as the artist strove to produce a work that did not just copy nature. 'Apple Gatherers' conveys fruitfulness, not only through the baskets of apples, but also through the communion of the man and the woman, who hold hands and stand guard over their young. 'Apple Gatherers' is an early example of Spencer's mystical vision of his native village, Cookham. He wrote: 'Places in Cookham seem to be possessed by a sacred presence... The people in 'Apple Gatherers' are, as it were, brought forth by the place and therefore are aware of its divinity.'
— Swan Upping at Cookham (1919, 148x116cm) _ This was begun in March 1915 in the attic of Ship Cottage, Cookham, but only the top half was painted by the time Spencer enlisted in the army in July. The lower half was completed in 1919 when he returned to Cookham after the war. The subject is the annual marking of the young swans on the river Thames, which takes place on the stretch between London and Henley. The Dyers' and Vintners' Companies of the City of London own the swans on the Thames by royal licence. Officials examine the birds to determine ownership through existing markings. Unmarked ones belong to the Queen while marked ones belong to the Dyers' and the Vintners'.
— The Centurion's Servant (1914, 114x114cm) _ Spencer liked the story in St. Luke Chapter 7, in which after marvelling at the centurion's faith, Jesus heals his sick servant without entering the house. Bringing this into his own time and place, Spencer set the scene in the maid's bedroom in the attic of his home, a room which he too never entered. Sometimes he heard strange voices coming from the room which he later discovered was simply the maid talking through the wall to another servant. Thus, the biblical narrative reminded him of experiences in his own life. These also included kneeling in prayer at church, and Cookham villagers praying around the bed of a dying man, a custom his mother had told him about. The youth on the bed has Spencer's own features.
— The Robing of Christ (1922, 35x59cm) — The Disrobing of Christ (1922, 36x64cm)
— The Resurrection, Cookham (1927, 274x549cm; 252x512pix, 26kb) _ detail (650x600pix, 73kb) _ The setting for this painting is Cookham, the artist's childhood home. Spencer considered it a kind of paradise where everything was possessed of a mystical significance. This attitude led him to paint scenes in which he imagined biblical events taking place in the village, interwoven with events from his own life. Christ appears enthroned at the church doorway, with God the father leaning over the back of the throne. The central nude figure is Spencer himself; his wife Hilda is half-hidden on the tomb in the foreground. The rest of the churchyard is filled with people resurrecting from their tombs. Spencer made it clear that his Resurrection was a joyous event, the mood here is one of peace and harmony.
— Saint Francis and the Birds (1935, 66x58cm) _ Saint Francis of Assisi [1181–1226] is strongly associated with nature. His rounded shape in this picture is echoed in the forms surrounding him, emphasising his empathy with wild animals. The story of Saint Francis preaching to the birds was told by Brother Ugolino in his Fioretti di San Francesco (English translation) in Chapter XVI. How Saint Francis, having been told by Saint Clare and the holy Brother Silvester that he should preach and convert many to the faith, founded the Third Order, preached to the birds, and reduced to silence the swallows.
During Saint Francis' first preaching expedition, at one point he
“venne tra Cannaio e Bevagno. E passando oltre con quello fervore, levò gli occhi e vide alquanti arbori allato alla via, in su' quali era quasi infinita moltitudine d'uccelli; di che santo Francesco si maravigliò e disse a' compagni: “Voi m'aspetterete qui nella via, e io andrò a predicare alle mie sirocchie uccelli”. E entrò nel campo e cominciò a predicare alli uccelli ch'erano in terra; e subitamente quelli ch'erano in su gli arbori se ne vennono a lui insieme tutti quanti e stettono fermi, mentre che santo Francesco compiè di predicare, e poi anche non si partivano infino a tanto ch'egli diè loro la benedizione sua. ... andando santo Francesco fra loro, toccandole colla cappa, nessuna perciò si movea.
La sustanza della predica di santo Francesco fu questa:
“Sirocchie mie uccelli, voi siete molto tenute a Dio vostro creatore, e sempre e in ogni luogo il dovete laudare, imperò che v'ha dato la libertà di volare in ogni luogo; anche v'ha dato il vestimento duplicato e triplicato; appresso, perché elli riserbò il seme di voi in nell'arca di Noè, acciò che la spezie vostra non venisse meno nel mondo; ancora gli siete tenute per lo elemento dell'aria che egli ha deputato a voi. Oltre a questo, voi non seminate e non mietete, e Iddio vi pasce e davvi li fiumi e le fonti per vostro bere, e davvi li monti e le valli per vostro refugio, e gli alberi alti per fare li vostri nidi. E con ciò sia cosa che voi non sappiate filare né cucire, Iddio vi veste, voi e' vostri figliuoli. Onde molto v'ama il vostro Creatore, poi ch'egli vi dà tanti benefici, e però guardatevi, sirocchie mie, del peccato della ingratitudine, e sempre vi studiate di lodare Iddio”.
Dicendo loro santo Francesco queste parole, tutti quanti quelli uccelli cominciarono ad aprire i becchi e distendere i colli e aprire l'alie e riverentemente inchinare li capi infino in terra, e con atti e con canti dimostrare che 'l padre santo dava loro grandissimo diletto. E santo Francesco con loro insieme si rallegrava e dilettava, e maravigliavasi molto di tanta moltitudine d'uccelli e della loro bellissima varietà e della loro attenzione e famigliarità; per la qual cosa egli in loro divotamente lodava il Creatore.
Finalmente compiuta la predicazione, santo Francesco fece loro il segno della Croce e diè loro licenza di partirsi; e allora tutti quelli uccelli si levarono in aria con maravigliosi canti, e poi secondo la Croce ch'avea fatta loro santo Francesco si divisono in quattro partì; e l'una parte volò inverso l'oriente e l'altra parte verso occidente, e l'altra parte verso lo meriggio, e la quarta parte verso l'aquilone, e ciascuna schiera n'andava cantando maravigliosi canti; in questo significando che come da santo Francesco gonfaloniere della Croce di Cristo era stato a loro predicato e sopra loro fatto il segno della Croce, secondo il quale egli si divisono in quattro partì del mondo; così la predicazione della Croce di Cristo rinnovata per santo Francesco si dovea per lui e per li suoi frati portare per tutto il mondo; li quali frati, a modo che gli uccelli, non possedendo nessuna cosa propria in questo mondo, alla sola provvidenza di Dio commettono la lor vita.”
(Saint Francis) “reached a spot between Cannaio and Bevagno. And as he went on his way, with great fervor, Saint Francis lifted up his eyes, and saw on some trees by the wayside a great multitude of birds; and being much surprised, he said to his companions, “Wait for me here by the way, whilst I go and preach to my little sisters the birds”; and entering into the field, he began to preach to the birds which were on the ground, and suddenly all those also on the trees came round him, and all listened while Saint Francis preached to them, and did not fly away until he had given them his blessing. ... Saint Francis went among them and even touched them with his garments, and ... none of them moved.
Now the substance of the sermon was this:
“My little sisters the birds, ye owe much to God, your Creator, and ye ought to sing his praise at all times and in all places, because he has given you liberty to fly about into all places; and though ye neither spin nor sew, he has given you a twofold and a threefold clothing for yourselves and for your offspring. Two of all your species he sent into the Ark with Noah that you might not be lost to the world; besides which, he feeds you, though ye neither sow nor reap. He has given you fountains and rivers to quench your thirst, mountains and valleys in which to take refuge, and trees in which to build your nests; so that your Creator loves you much, having thus favored you with such bounties. Beware, my little sisters, of the sin of ingratitude, and study always to give praise to God.”
As he said these words, all the birds began to open their beaks, to stretch their necks, to spread their wings and reverently to bow their heads to the ground, endeavoring by their motions and by their songs to manifest their joy to Saint Francis. And the saint rejoiced with them. He wondered to see such a multitude of birds, and was charmed with their beautiful variety, with their attention and familiarity, for all which he devoutly gave thanks to the Creator.
Having finished his sermon, Saint Francis made the sign of the cross, and gave them leave to fly away. Then all those birds rose up into the air, singing most sweetly; and, following the sign of the cross, which Saint Francis had made, they divided themselves into four companies. One company flew towards the east, another towards the west, one towards the south, and one towards the north; each company as it went singing most wonderfully; signifying thereby, that as Saint Francis, the bearer of the Cross of Christ, had preached to them and made upon them the sign of the cross, after which they had divided among themselves the four parts of the world, so the preaching of the Cross of Christ, renewed by Saint Francis, would be carried by him and by his brethren over all the world, and that the humble friars, like little birds, should posses nothing in this world, but should cast all the care of their lives on the providence of God.
_ Compare St. Francis Preaches to the Birds (1299) by Giotto.
— Daphne (1940, 61x51cm) _ Daphne Charlton was a student at the Slade School of Art in London, as was Stanley Spencer, and her husband George taught there. The Charltons were introduced to Spencer in 1939 and from then on he often visited them at their Hampstead home. All three went on a painting holiday together in the summer of 1939 to Leonard Stanley, a remote village in Gloucestershire. During this stay Daphne Charlton painted Spencer's portrait. In April 1940, back in London, she sat for this portrait every day for about two to three weeks. The hat she wears was bought for three guineas in a shop in Bond Street in December 1939, especially for the sittings. Spencer painted another portrait of her without her hat.
— Dinner on the Hotel Lawn (1957, 95x136cm) _ Spencer remained a dominant figure in British painting even towards the end of his life. Many of his works, including 'Dinner on the Hotel Lawn', are set in his native village of Cookham-on-Thames. This painting belongs to a series, begun in 1952, based on his memories of the Cookham Regatta in Edwardian days. Spencer imagined Cookham as a church building 'The Village Street of Cookham was to be the Nave and the river which runs behind the street was a side aisle'. Christ would be preaching from the Horse Ferry barge. He later commented of the Regatta pictures 'I seem to have forgotten about the food', which seems particularly strange in this depiction of an outdoor meal.
— Travoys Arriving with Wounded at a Dressing Station at Smol, Macedonia, September 1916 (1919, 183x219cm) _ Spencer was a young artist who was mainly known for his gift for drawing when he enlisted with the British medical corps in 1915. He spent two and a half years in Macedonia despite his attempts at getting sent back to the west as an army painter. He only returned after contracting malaria in 1918. Shortly afterwards, he painted this remarkable work, from memory for he had lost his sketchpad; it is a view from above of sleds (or travoys) holding wounded soldiers from 22nd Division who had been fighting troops from Bulgaria. They symbolically converge from every angle on the brightly lit operating theater. There is a sharp contrast between the rudimentary sleds pulled by mules and the operating theater where a wounded man is being anaesthetised with ether. The intensity of the picture is heightened by the details of the hands, the rumpled blankets and the animals apparently as exhausted as the men. Spencer turned down all subsequent requests to produce any further painting of his stay in the Balkans.
— The Resurrection of the Soldiers (1929) _ Having decided to pay tribute to the memory of her brother Lieutenant Henry Sandham, Mary Behrend and her husband Louie commissioned Spencer to do this project. He worked on it from 1923 to 1932, from the first preparatory sketches to the production of the panels describing the fate of the wounded, from their transfer to hospital to their nursing, funerals and - on the wall at the far end of the Chapel - their resurrection. On that wall, memories of Macedonia combine with an evocation of the cemeteries of religious rather than moral inspiration. Completely opposed to both Expressionism and to the Realism of Otto Dix, Spencer devised a very studied style incorporating the static simplicity of the figures, a very deliberate naiveté of line and a choice of the sober shades of grey and ochre, leaving white the task of lightening his composition. Soldiers - all young - and horses are reborn all over, in an evocation of the battlefield where the corpses piled up. The pure, adolescent faces are pushed into the foreground as far as the horizon as night falls, following the tangle of crosses. Although the other paintings in Sandham Memorial Chapel recount and describe actual scenes, Spencer here contrives to avoid any naturalist tendency, breathing a powerful symbolic charge into his work.
>Born on 14 December 1824:
Pierre Cécile Puvis de Chavannes,
painter who died on 24 October 1898.
>Died on 14 December 1888: Richard
Redgrave, British painter, etcher and administrator, born
on 30 April 1804. Brother of Samuel Redgrave.
— After entering the Royal Academy as a student in 1826, Redgrave was elected a Fellow in 1851. He was among the first British painters to turn to realistic social subjects in the 1840s; among these are The Emigrant's Last Sight of Home with a family bidding farewell to the English countryside, Going Into Service, The Seamtress, and The Poor Teacher. He painted Ophelia Weaving Her Garlands in 1842, about the time that he was turning to this realism that sometimes borders on criticism of nineteenth-century economic and social realities. With his brother Samuel he published A Century of Painters (1866), a study with valuable insights into nineteenth-century art and some of the painters who contributed paintings on Shakespeare. — Richard Redgrave trained initially as a clerk and draftsman in his father’s counting-house before becoming a student at the Royal Academy Schools in 1826; he also studied with John Powell. About 1830 he left his father’s firm and supported himself as a drawing-master, working in watercolor before attempting to paint in oil. He exhibited at the Royal Academy from 1825 until failing eyesight afflicted him in 1883. He was elected ARA in 1840 and RA in 1851. He also contributed to the British Institution and the Royal Society of British Artists from the late 1820s to the 1840s.
–- The Heron Disturbed (1850, 34x50cm; 667x975pix, 119kb _ ZOOM to 1323x1963px, 498kb)
–- Strayed Lambs (1862, 50x75cm; 442x667pix, 78kb _ ZOOM to 663x1000pix, 180kb _ ZOOM+ to 995x1500pix, 198kb)
–- Young Lady Bountiful (1860, 50x76cm; 438x667pix, 73kb _ ZOOM to 663x1000pix, 169kb _ ZOOM+ to 984x1500pix, 187kb)
–- The Emigrant's Last Sight of Home (1858, 68x98cm; 438x667pix, 74kb _ ZOOM to 708x1000pix, 167kb _ ZOOM+ to 1062x1500pix, 177kb) _ Many families left Britain during the 1840s and 1850s, forced to seek their fortune elsewhere by hardship and economic depression. Redgrave was one of several artists who recorded the plight of such emigrants. This picture was exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1859 accompanied by lines from Oliver Goldsmith's poem The Traveller. This begins: 'Have we not seen, round Britain's peopled shore, Her useful sons exchanged for useless ore?'. The village that the family prepare to leave is that of Abinger in Surrey, where Redgrave owned a cottage.
–- From Autumn To Winter: 'Things of the past are spring and summer time' (1868, 82x168cm; 481x1000pix)
— Ophelia Weaving Her Garlands (1842, 64x76cm) This painting refers to these words of Gertrude in Act IV, Scene vii of Hamlet: "There is a willow grows ascant the brook, / That shows his hoar leaves in the glassy stream. / Therewith fantastic garlands did she make / Of crowflowers, nettles, daisies, and long purples. . . ." Ophelia is occupied in making 'fantastic garlands' of 'Crow-flowers, nettles, daisies, and long purples.' She is pale--woe-begone--and her restless, fevered eyes, bespeak a mind diseased. The painting of her dress, which is white, resembles the manner of some of the old masters, a feeling which is extended to the banks of the brook, this part of the work being enamelled on the canvass like the foreground of some of Giorgione's garden scenes. The figure is an admirable embodiment of the poet's character, and the landscape is painted with a finish and attention to detail whichc ould be called 'Pre-Raphaelism'. The composition and setting are classical and the details of the tree-trunk, the flowers, and Ophelia's gown are masterful; the "mind diseased" is, however, not so obvious if one does not know the source of the painting and the story of Ophelia. Her face has about it more of a traditional Italian Madonna than a love-sick, half-crazed girl.
— Country Cousins (1848, 82x107cm) _ Redgrave claimed that 'many of my best efforts in art have aimed at calling attention to the trials and struggles of the poor and the oppressed'. Country Cousins lacks much of the power that is found in Redgrave's best works and its moral is not at first obvious. It is only the picture over the fireplace which makes the theme clear. It is an illustration of Christ's parable of Dives and Lazarus: the rich man at his table, the poor man at his gate. Redgrave's picture possesses a similar moralizing tone to that applied by his friend William Collins to Sunday Morning.