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    Sale 7561

    Simon Sainsbury The Creation of an English Arcadia

    18 June 2008, London, King Street

  • Lot 116

    Sir Stanley Spencer, R.A. (1891-1959)

    Study for the Last Supper

    Price Realised  

    Sir Stanley Spencer, R.A. (1891-1959)
    Study for the Last Supper
    pencil and watercolour, lightly squared for transfer
    21 x 29 in. (53.3 x 73.6 cm.)
    Executed circa 1919.


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    A study for The Last Supper painted in 1920 (Bell no. 34, Stanley Spencer Gallery, Cookham) (fig. 1), this was probably the design Spencer referred to in a letter to his artist friend Henry Lamb in a letter dated 3 September 1919: 'I have nearly finished a composition of the Last Supper which I think you will dislike in the same way you dislike the Entombment'. Apart for some minor corrections to the perspective, the design was transferred to the canvas which he painted while staying with his friends and patrons Henry (later Sir Henry) and Margaret Slesser at 'Cornerways', Bourne End, near Cookham the following year. The painting was subsequently purchased by the Slessers and hung as an altarpiece in their private chapel. The present study was acquired, probably about the same time, by Mr and Mrs J. L. Behrend, the future patrons of the Sandham Memorial Chapel at Burghclere, who had introduced Spencer and his brother Gilbert to the Slessers in November 1919 (for Mr and Mrs Behrend see the note to lot 117).

    The scene of the Last Supper is set in the interior of the Cookham malthouse, a favourite building of Spencer's also appearing in The Betrayal (first version), 1914 (Bell no. 18), Mending Cowls, 1915 (Bell no. 26) and subsequently, in 1923, in The Betrayal (second version) (Bell no. 91). In the study, the red wall of the grain bins forms the background to the event. Christ is shown breaking the bread and, following tradition, St John sleeps on his shoulder. Spencer was certainly aware of these conventions through his studies of early Italian painting at the National Gallery and his collection of Gowans and Gray's illustrated old master art books. The composition belongs to his early 'Giottesque' style consisting of broadly rendered figures in austere architectural settings. The bare interior of the malthouse clearly suggested a similar space to Giotto's setting for the Last Supper in the Arena Chapel, Padua.

    The study is one of the finest examples of the highly finished watercolour designs for paintings made by Spencer at this time and which, by 1922, had partly superceded the small oil studies which had previously formed the basis for working out the designs for the final, full-size compositions such as Mending Cowls, Cookham, 1915 (Bell no. 26, Tate, London).

    K.B.

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    Provenance

    J.L. Behrend, and by descent until 1973.
    George Behrend; Christie's, London, 14 December 1973, lot 163, where acquired by James Kirkman on behalf on the present owner.


    Literature

    Exhibition catalogue, Drawings by Stanley Spencer, London, Arts Council, 1954, no. 14, pl. I.
    Exhibition catalogue, Drawings by Stanley Spencer, London, Arts Council, 1955, no. 24, pl. II.
    R. Carline, Stanley Spencer at War, London, 1978, p. 123.
    Exhibition catalogue, Stanley Spencer, London, Royal Academy, 1980, p. 59, no. 39, illustrated.
    K. Bell, Stanley Spencer A Complete Catalogue of the Paintings, London, 1992, p. 395.
    Exhibition catalogue, Stanley Spencer, London, Tate Gallery, 2001, p. 106, no. 22, illustrated.


    Exhibited

    Arts Council of Great Britain, Drawings by Stanley Spencer, 1954, no. 14: this exhibition travelled to London, Arts Council Gallery, 1955, no. 24.
    London, Leicester Galleries, The J.L. Behrend Collection, May 1962, no. 49.
    Leeds, Arts Council, City Art Gallery, Decade 1910-1920, May - September 1965, no. 66.
    London, Royal Academy, Stanley Spencer, September 1980, no. 39.
    London, Tate Gallery, Stanley Spencer, March - June 2001, no. 22.