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

Cottage, St Ives

Sir Stanley Spencer, R.A. (1891-1959)
Cottage, St Ives
oil on canvas
30 x 27½ in. (76.2 x 70 cm.)
Painted in 1937.
with Leger Gallery, London, June 1938.
Lord Cottesloe, by 1969.
Mrs John Noble, Ardkinglas Cairndow.
K. Bell, Stanley Spencer A Complete Catalogue of the Paintings, London, 1992, p. 451, no. 239, illustrated.
Edinburgh, Scottish Arts Council, Modern Art from Scottish Houses, July - August 1969, no. 64, as 'The Steps, Cornwall'.
Cambridge, Fitzwilliam Museum, on loan 2005-2010.

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Lot Essay

During his extravagant courtship of Patricia Preece, Spencer fell into significant debt and by 1936 was totally dependent upon his art dealer, Arthur Tooth, for financial support. Tooth advised Spencer to paint landscapes, which had a history of achieving great commercial success. Spencer consequently painted seventeen landscapes before the end of 1936 and five flower paintings over the winter, when it was too cold to work outdoors. This pressure continued throughout 1937 and reached a peak in 1938.

On 29 May 1937, Spencer married Preece at Maidenhead Registry Office. It had been planned that Spencer and Patricia should go to St Ives in Cornwall after the wedding, for a honeymoon-cum-painting trip. Patricia and her companion Dorothy Hepworth arrived in St Ives a few days ahead of Spencer. In the intervening days Spencer slept with his ex-wife, Hilda Carline. On arriving in St Ives, Spencer confessed his infidelity to Preece. She was shocked by his betrayal and refused to sleep in the same room as him, retiring instead to Hepworth's room. The marriage was probably never consummated.

During the six weeks he spent in St Ives, Spencer found consolation in painting. As in the best of Spencer's landscapes, the scene has an abundance of circumstantial and realistic detail. Its quality is drawn from his intense absorption in the familiar view, his unerring control of space, and his child-like ability to depict every detail set before him almost without discrimination. This need to create a reality that can almost be touched is also found in Spencer's figure paintings such as the nude portraits of Preece painted between 1935 and 1937 (K. Bell, Stanley Spencer, London, 1992, pp. 272-95).

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