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    Sale 7561

    Simon Sainsbury The Creation of an English Arcadia

    18 June 2008, London, King Street

  • Lot 117

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

    Hilda Studying a Model for Burghclere

    Price Realised  


    Sir Stanley Spencer, R.A. (1891-1959)
    Hilda Studying a Model for Burghclere
    inscribed 'Study for Doner [sic] examining plans' (on the reverse)
    oil on paper
    10 x 14 in. (25.4 x 35.5 cm.)
    Painted circa 1930.

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    During the years 1927-32, Stanley Spencer spent almost all his time working on what was to be his most successful painting series, a cycle of scenes based on his experiences of military service during the First World War in Bristol and Macedonia, housed in a specially designed building, the Sandham Memorial Chapel at Burghclere, Hampshire (fig. 1). The Chapel was commissioned by Mr and Mrs J. L. Behrend as a memorial to Mrs Behrend's brother, Lieutenant Henry Willoughby Sandham RASC, who had died of an illness contracted while on service in Macedonia.

    While still at work on the paintings for the Chapel, Spencer planned another series of pictures in which his patrons, the Behrends, would be commemorated. In the present work, Spencer depicted his first wife Hilda posing for the figure of a donor lying full length on the studio floor to study a cardboard model of the Chapel interior. The arched tops of the upper register of designs for the north wall of the chapel are visible on the left side of the model. Some idea of the appearance of these studies can be gleaned from two pencil and sepia wash drawings (Stanley Spencer Gallery, Cookham), made by the artist while he was staying with his friend and fellow artist Henry Lamb at Poole, Dorset in 1923. In May of that year, Spencer wrote to Hilda concerning these studies and remarking that he had drawn 'a whole architectural scheme of these picture', which with some considerable modification became the basis for the north and south wall paintings at Burghclere (see K. Bell, op. cit., 1980, nos. 82a, 82b, illustrated). It is possible that these two drawings, together with a missing study of the Last Judgement for the altar wall of the Chapel, were those subsequently used in the model for the Chapel and which appear in the present painting. As such, Hilda Studying a Model for Burghclere is an important document illustrating Spencer's working methods for the Chapel, providing as it did an opportunity for the artist to study matters of scale, perspective and sight-lines, as well as communicating his exacting requirement for the building to Lionel Pearson, the architect.

    In the event, Spencer did not proceed any further with the proposed series of paintings depicting his patrons, and the only evidence of the form at least one of the scenes would have taken, resides in the present small study. At one time Spencer did imagine expanding the Chapel paintings through into the flanking almshouses, so it is possible he intended to house a full-scale version of the model oil study along with a painting of J.L. Behrend and perhaps other scenes. By 1930, however, Spencer was spending less time at Burghclere, and by 1932, when the Chapel paintings were finally completed, he was already preoccupied with an ambitious new series of studies for paintings related to his life in Cookham. These were to be hung in a building called the Church House, inspired by the Burghclere Chapel, but which in the absence of patrons was never built.


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    A.J.L. McDonnell; Sotheby's, London, 9 December 1970, lot 3, as 'Studying the Plans for the Decoration of Burghclere Memorial'.
    With Anthony d'Offay Gallery, London, 1978.
    Anonymous sale; Sotheby's, London, 11 November 1987, lot 65, where acquired by James Kirkman on behalf of the present owner.


    K. Bell (ed.), exhibition catalogue, Stanley Spencer, R.A., London, Royal Academy, 1980, p. 119, no. 131, illustrated.
    K. Bell, Stanley Spencer A Complete Catalogue of the Paintings, London, 1992, p. 424, no. 133, illustrated.


    London, Leger Gallery, The Early Work of Stanley Spencer, March 1939, no. 12, as 'Donor Looking at the Model of the Chapel'.
    London, Leicester Galleries, Stanley Spencer, November 1942, no. 10, as 'Studying the Plan for Decoration of Burghclere', incorrectly dated '1919'.
    Cookham, Stanley Spencer Gallery, Spencers and Carlines in Hampstead in the 1920s, May 1973, no. 5, as 'Studying the Plans for Burghclere'.
    London, Anthony d'Offay Gallery, Hilda and Stanley Spencer, September 1978, no. 4.
    London, Royal Academy, Stanley Spencer, R.A., September 1980, no. 131.