VILLAGE LIFE - THE WHITE HART PUBLIC HOUSE & SIR STANLEY SPENCER

Remembered as a shabby little man, an irrepressible talker and someone who gave the impression of a village simpleton, Sir Stanley Spencer was in fact a very important twentieth century artist, who although associated with the Berkshire village of Cookham throughout his life, resided in the upstairs front room of the White Hart Leonard Stanley during 1939 and 1940. Stanley’s room was big enough for him to paint in, it also had a piano and visitors could be entertained with his fluent playing. During his time here he did an unusually large amount of work, drawings that filled many scrapbooks and twenty three paintings, probably the most important of which were ‘Us in Gloucestershire’ and ‘The Wool Shop.’

 

Daphne. 1940 (Tate Gallery)
Spencer was born in 1891 and from 1908 –1912 studied at the Slade school of Art, his reason for coming to Leonard Stanley on 30th June 1939 was that his friend Michael Rotherstein (the brother of the director of the Tate Gallery) had a house here, so rooms were booked at the White Hart Inn for himself, Daphne Charlton and her husband George, Stanley enjoyed great friendship with Daphne during this time, she looked after him cooked and washed for him and attempted to tidy him up and domesticate him. He was very shabby after living alone for some time in London, Spencer’s relationship with George (described as having an amiable nature) is unclear.

In his many jottings from the time Stanley describes a visit to a knitting wool shop in nearby Stonehouse as the inspiration for the painting ‘The Wool Shop’ and it is interesting that his ex-wife Hilda still a big part of his thoughts features in ‘Us in Gloucestershire’ along with Daphne and himself. He also painted scenes of Leonard Stanley such as ‘Leonard Stanley Farm Pond’ and ‘Tannery Mills’ which although not typical of his most recognized work hang in city art galleries around Britain and a sketch of Daphne climbing Sandford Knoll was later used for reference when painting "The assumption of the virgin" one of his many religious pieces.

Village Life (Village Gossip) (Cheltenham Art Gallery)  
On Saturday 15th October 2011 a major event saw the Big Draw and Apple Day along with the unveiling of the Stanley Spencer plaque. It was a national event, and there were activities taking place around the village with actors from the Everyman Theatre promenading in costumes represented by the painting Village Life (Village Gossip)

 

 

The Raising of Jairus’s daughter (1947)

 

At the outbreak of World War II Spencer, a recognized artist though far from wealthy, requested "some sort of official art employment" and eventually in June 1940 he was commissioned to paint five canvases of the shipyards at Port Glasgow for the Admiralty, it was this together with his work from Macedonia and Serbia in the first world war that would get him the label ‘war artist’ . He would travel from Leonard Stanley to Glasgow to make sketches, then on his return to the White Hart would construct the canvas paintings, these are large, unusual but impressive figure paintings of welders, riveters, plumbers and burners at work, they now hang in the Imperial War Museum, London.

 

Later in 1940 Stanley left Leonard Stanley and was reconciled with Hilda, with whom he had always held an obsessive affection. He spent his latter years in his home village of Cookham. He was knighted in 1959 at the age of 69 and died on 14th December that same year.

Farm Pond, Leonard Stanley (1939)

 

 

Other well known work by Sir Stanley Spencer 

The Sandham Memorial Chapel. Burghclere. 1926-32 (National Trust)

Parents Resurrecting. 1933 (National Gallery of Victoria, Australia)

Portrait of Patricia Preece. 1934. (Private collection)

St Francis and the Birds. 1935 (Private collection)

Christ in the Wilderness series. 1939 -43 (Private collection)

Shipbuilding on the Clyde series. 1940 -45. (Imperial War Museum)

Resurrection, Port Glasgow. 1945 (Tate Gallery)

Raising of Jairus’s Daughter. 1947 (Southampton Art Gallery)

Hilda Spencer (1948) (Private collection)

Christ Preaching at Cookham Regatta. 1959. (Viscount Astor)

The Resurrection, Cookham. 1923 -27 (Tate Gallery)

 

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