Spencer, Sir Stanley

Artist, born on 30 June 1891 and brought up in Cookham, Berks. His mother was a member at the Wesleyan chapel, of whose influence he later wrote: ‘I wish all my life I could have been tied to my mother’s apron strings. It would have suited me mostly in the kitchen or the bedroom, or just on a visit in the locality, a long talk and plenty of cups of tea.’ He enjoyed [pushing her about [in a bath chair] because of the harmony which existed between them. As he pushed, he says, “I was able to look at things with the impersonal vision of an animal.’ But he was not particularly his mother’s favourite, for she was equally fond of all her children.

The Wesleyan chapel she attended was at the east end of the village, only a few steps away from Fernlea. He used often to accompany her there and left an account in 1942 of what he saw, an account throwing light on his own character. ‘I loved the gentle atmosphere that belonged to the poor slummy people who came to the chapel… The comfortable atmosphere of the chapel stimulated me as a painter. Being “sanctified” was the way they had of expressing themselves. When they felt in that state, they would go flop down just under the auditorium. I felt I should not look, but though my eyes were down I was trying to imagine what shape they were on the sacred piece of ground where they were “coming to the Lord”. It was a patch of hard linoleum with only room for one man at a time. It seemed to me the taking off place for the Wesleyan heaven…’

As a painter he received far more stimulation from such scenes, he says, than he would have from any clever talk in artistic circles. The connection between what he felt in the Wesleyan chapel and his subsequent resurrection pictures is close. The behaviour of the Wesleyan devotees suggested to him what a resurrection would be like. But he later wrote that, though he was interested in religion, he 'did not want the church telling him what he should think and do. .. He did not resort to prayer, he did not ask forgiveness. But like a true artist, he was aware of something behind appearances, something inspiring and comforting, with which he desired to make contact through his art,'

He died on14 December 1959.

  • Maurice Collis, Stanley Spencer, a biography (1962), pp.28-30


Category: Person
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