Sir Stanley Spencer, R.A. (1891-1959)
Artist's Resale Right ("Droit de Suite"). Artist's… Read more PROPERTY FROM THE COLLECTION OF MARGARET PILKINGTON
Sir Stanley Spencer, R.A. (1891-1959)

Greenhouse Interior

Sir Stanley Spencer, R.A. (1891-1959)
Greenhouse Interior
oil on canvas
21¾ x 25¾ in. (55 x 65.5 cm.)
Painted circa 1935.
with Arthur Tooth & Sons, London, where acquired by Miss Margaret Pilkington, 1936, by whom gifted as a silver wedding anniversary present to the parents of the present owners.
K. Bell, Stanley Spencer A Complete Catalogue of the Paintings, London, 1992, p. 438, no. 181.
London, Arthur Tooth & Sons, Stanley Spencer, June - July 1936, ex-catalogue.
Leeds, Temple Newsam House, Leeds City Art Gallery, Paintings and Drawings by Stanley Spencer, July - September 1947, no. 18, as 'Greenhouse' and dated '1930'.
Manchester, City Art Gallery, Exhibition of Works of Art from Private Collections in the North West and North Wales, September - October 1960, no. 210, dated 'c. 1928'.
Cookham, Stanley Spencer Gallery, The Creative Genius of Stanley Spencer, April 2015 - March 2016, exhibition not numbered.
Wakefield, Hepworth Wakefield, Stanley Spencer: Of Angels of Dirt, June - October 2016, exhibition not numbered.
Cookham, Stanley Spencer Gallery, Celebration Exhibition, November 2016 - March 2017, exhibition not numbered.
Cookham, Stanley Spencer Gallery, Stanley Spencer in Focus, October 2017 - March 2018, exhibition not numbered.
Special notice
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.

Brought to you by

William Porter
William Porter

Lot Essay

Spencer painted the present work around 1935, during the most tumultuous years of his life and during the height of his disastrous relationship with Patricia Preece in Cookham. Spencer had met Patricia in a teashop in Cookham in 1929 while he was living at Burghclere and working on his Sandham Memorial Chapel commission. They kept in touch, and when he returned to Cookham with Hilda in December 1931, they became neighbours to Patricia and her life partner, Dorothy Hepworth. Spencer embarked upon a friendship with Patricia that would end his marriage to Hilda and, from 1933 until his marriage to Patricia in 1937, Spencer painted a number of portraits of her, including two large nudes. He now considered Patricia to be the embodiment of Cookham in his art, and as such, intrinsic to his painting and his obsession with her generated some of his most powerful works. Moreover, the intensity of his paintings at this time took their toll on Spencer emotionally and he needed a distraction on a regular basis. The result was a group of pictures of flowers, gardens, greenhouses and views of Cookham, painted between 1932 and 1938, to which the present work belongs, all of which were considered by Spencer to be `landscapes'.

Although he resented their popularity compared to the much slower sales of his figurative work, the practice of including flower paintings in his exhibitions was much encouraged by his dealer, Arthur Tooth, who found these pictures easier to sell. The works were smaller and they were painted from life rather than drawings, and despite this drawback, many could still be painted indoors if the weather was bad. Consequently, Spencer found many patrons in his locality in Cookham who could also provide subject matter for these works and commissions of pictures of their houses and gardens, such as Mary Corble and Gerard Shiel, both of who went on to build important collections of paintings by Spencer. Indeed, it was at Tooth's summer exhibition for Spencer in 1936 that Miss Pilkington originally bought Greenhouse Interior.

The present work follows Spencer's common practice at the time of painting a closely observed and highly detailed flower painting, in this case fuchsias, against a receding background. Greenhouse and Garden (1938; Ferens Art Gallery, Kingston-Upon-Hull), shows a view through the door of the greenhouse at `Lindworth', his Cookham home. The Greenhouse (1938; sold in these Rooms, 24 November 2000, lot 32, private collection) and Cactus in Greenhouse, Cookham Dene (1938; private collection) may also have been painted at Lindworth, although the pattern of the tiled flooring differs between the various compositions.

Margaret Pilkington (1891-1974), the first owner of this work, was a pioneering supporter of the arts in her native Manchester in the early 20th Century. She was determined to make art accessible to a wider audience and was particularly aware of the different needs of gallery visitors, especially young children and those from less privileged backgrounds. Having come from a wealthy background - her grandfather had co-founded Pilkington Glass Works whilst her father, Lawrence, was the co-founder of Pilkington Lancastrian Pottery and Tile Company, famous for its lustre ware – Pilkington felt very deeply that art should not remain the preserve of what she called the ‘idle rich’ and must be made readily available to as many people as possible.

Having been asked to join the Council of Manchester’s Whitworth Art Gallery in 1925, she went on to become Honorary Director from 1936-59, the first female director of a major British gallery, and alongside organising numerous exhibitions, she founded the Friends of the Whitworth which still exists today to support gallery activities. During the Second World War, Pilkington oversaw the relocation of major works into storage with the National Library of Wales and helped to set up a rest centre at the gallery for those made homeless during the Manchester Blitz. In recognition of her contribution to the artistic life of the city, Pilkington was awarded an honorary M.A. from the University of Manchester in 1942 and an O.B.E. in 1956.

In 1953, the Friends of the Whitworth commissioned her portrait from Sir Stanley Spencer and he stayed with her several times at the Pilkington family home at Firwood, Alderley Edge: ‘before much time goes by I must write and thank you for the lovely time I had a Firwood…’ (S. Spencer to M. Pilkington, 11th April 1953, Whitworth Art Gallery Archive). Although it is unclear when they first met, she may have known him from the Slade as he had graduated only a year before she arrived in 1913 but she certainly knew his work, purchasing the present work from Arthur Tooth in 1936.

A talented artist in her own right, she attended the Manchester School of Art from 1911-13 and went on to the Slade in 1913 where she was taught by Lucien Pissarro who became a key influence. In 1914, she moved to the Central School and studied wood engraving with Noel Rooke and developed a wonderfully lyrical style. Indeed, according to Campbell Dodgson, Keeper of Prints and Drawings at the British Museum, ‘Miss Gribble and Miss Pilkington are among the other women artists who practice wood engraving with zeal and success…’. After the war, Pilkington exhibited with the Society of Wood Engravers, becoming a member in 1921, honorary secretary in 1924 and Chairman from 1952-67. In 1925, she attended Walter Sickert’s lecture classes in Manchester and later remembered: ‘Sickert himself advocated the making first of a rough sketch which he would then square up and enlarge in the squaring up of the canvas. He would then select the point to him of greatest interest - in a portrait head perhaps an eye - in a landscape a tree or a building. This he would work on first and then work outwards from it. I was interested to see that Stanley Spencer used this method when he made a portrait drawing of me…’. She also had a deep appreciation for William Morris and his vision of uniting the arts and crafts and was thus a founding member and honorary secretary of the Red Rose Guild of Designer Craftsmen with early members including Bernard Leach, Katherine Pleydell-Bouverie and Ethel Mairet.

Pilkington remained passionate about supporting fellow artists throughout her life acquiring many works for her own collection by names such as Ben Nicholson, Eric Gill, L.S. Lowry, Barbara Hepworth, John Minton, Edward Bawden, and Gwen John. Margaret and her sister Dorothy went on to give 145 works to the Whitworth including many 20th Century British works but also examples by Constable, Rowlandson, Delacroix, Toulouse-Lautrec, Richard Parkes Bonnington and Richard Wilson. When the Whitworth was refurbished in the mid 1960s, a new central exhibition room was named The Margaret Pilkington Room and in 1999, the Friends of the Whitworth Art Gallery organised a memorial exhibition to celebrate her life and work.

More from Modern British Art Evening Sale

View All
View All