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

Landscape, Gloucestershire

Sir Stanley Spencer, R.A. (1891-1959)
Landscape, Gloucestershire
oil on canvas
24 x 36 in. (61 x 91.5 cm.)
Painted in 1940.
with Leicester Galleries, London.
Dermod O'Brien, USA.
Purchased from Arthur Tooth & Sons, London, circa 1950, and by descent.
K. Bell, Stanley Spencer, A Complete Catalogue of Paintings, London, 1992, p. 468, no. 295, illustrated.
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Artist's Resale Right ("Droit de Suite"). Artist's Resale Right Regulations 2006 apply to this lot, the buyer agrees to pay us an amount equal to the resale royalty provided for in those Regulations, and we undertake to the buyer to pay such amount to the artist's collection agent.
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Lot Essay

The White Hart Inn at Leonard Stanley, Gloucestershire, is one of several places with a plaque to Stanley Spencer. He stayed in Gloucestershire at an important stage in his life, in the latter half of 1939 and for periods during 1940-41. His affair with Daphne Charlton at this time did much to restore his spirits after preceding years of emotional upheaval and domestic turmoil, and provides the context for this quintessential Spencer landscape.

Divorced by his first wife, Hilda (née Carline) in May 1937, he married his second wife Patricia Preece four days later. She had endorsed his wish to have in effect two wives simultaneously, which would thus relieve her of marital duties. The plan came to nothing, since Hilda understandably refused to become Spencer’s mistress, after twelve years as his wife. For various reasons, Stanley and Patricia never co-habited and she remained with her lifelong friend, the painter Dorothy Hepworth.

Evicted by Patricia from his home in Cookham, Spencer spent some time on his own in London. He then went to stay with the artists George and Daphne Charlton in Hampstead. George spent most of his career as a teacher of painting and drawing at the Slade, where he was said to have proposed to many of his female students. Daphne was the one who accepted. In July 1939, the Charltons invited Spencer to join them on a painting holiday at Leonard Stanley, where they remained after the outbreak of the Second World War. By October the Slade had been evacuated to Oxford, where George stayed from Sunday to Wednesday each week. At this point Stanley and Daphne had freedom for their affair. Eighteen years younger than Spencer, and considerably taller, Daphne was to feature in a number of works - some of them painted in Gloucestershire - inspired by the affair.

Spencer painted about a dozen landscapes and farm scenes in and around Leonard Stanley, of which this is a notable example. It was a deeply rural area of lush, rolling countryside to which he responded with enthusiasm. The village, not far from Stroud, contains the remains of a Benedictine priory. It lies at the foot of the Cotswold escarpment, seen here with an impressive bank of trees in full leaf, beneath a cloud-studded sky. Sometimes the trio of artists sketched together. On one occasion, in 1939, they were unwittingly too close to a factory that made aircraft components. Arrested, like Hogarth before them, for drawing in an unwise location, they were thrown into police cells in nearby Stonehouse. The vicar of Leonard Stanley had to vouch for them before they could be released, an incident which led to some amusement within the village.

The Charltons and Spencer chose to go to Gloucestershire because of their several friendships with various members of the Rothenstein family. Sir William Rothenstein, former principal of the Royal College of Art, who in his memoirs had already commended Spencer’s talent, owned a farmhouse at Far Oakridge, about ten miles from Leonard Stanley. In 1938, Spencer had stayed with William’s son John, Director of the Tate Gallery, and his wife Elizabeth. As Daphne told me, Elizabeth enjoined her to ‘look after Stanley’. John’s brother, Michael Rothenstein, was one of a several artists to paint Daphne’s portrait.

Stanley and Daphne remained in touch for the rest of his life. I first met her many years later, where from my knowledge of Spencer’s Daphne 1940 (Tate), I recognised her at a concert. She talked volubly and enthusiastically over George’s head of her affair with Spencer. I subsequently recorded her recollections (and also George’s). An exhibition, An Artistic Affair: Stanley Spencer and Daphne Charlton, is at the Stanley Spencer Gallery, Cookham, until 1 October 2017.

We are very grateful to Carolyn Leder for preparing this catalogue entry.

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