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

The Alder Tree, Gloucestershire

Sir Stanley Spencer, R.A. (1891-1959)
The Alder Tree, Gloucestershire
oil on canvas
27 x 36 in. (70 x 91.4 cm.)
Painted in 1941
with Redfern Gallery, London, where purchased by Ian Greenlees, 1942.
Anon. sale; Sotheby's, 17 June 1963, lot 126.
E. Rothenstein, Stanley Spencer, London, 1945, p.25, pl.80.
K. Bell, Stanley Spencer A Complete Catalogue of the Paintings, London, 1992, no.303, p.299 (illustrated).
Cookham, Stanley Spencer Gallery, Stanley Spencer Loan Exhibition, 1962-1963, no.4.
London, Christie's, The New Patrons: Twentieth Century Art from Corporate Collections, January 1992, no.162.
The present work has always been referred to as The Alder Tree, Gloucestershire although the tree depicted is in fact an elder.


The present work is from a series of landscapes painted at Leonard Stanley in Gloucestershire during the early 1940s. Spencer had first visited the area on a painting trip with George and Daphne Charlton in July 1939. George Charlton, a lecturer at The Slade School, was called back to London on the outbreak of the Second World War to supervise the transfer of the school to Oxford, leaving Spencer and Daphne to embark upon a passionate affair. Spencer celebrated the passion that he felt for Daphne and his joy at the small acts of kindness that she performed for him, such as sewing on his buttons and cutting his fingernails, in a series of drawings in four sketchbooks, executed between 1939 and 1949, depicting vivid incidents from the past, and actual and visonary domestic encounters, each copiously inscribed with his thoughts and ideas. These are now known as the 'Scrapbook' drawings, and a number of studies which depict Spencer and Daphne in Leonard Stanley were eventually realised as paintings. Turkeys from 1946, in which a diminuitive Spencer stands and gazes at Daphne as she watches a group of turkeys in a farmyard, was sold in these Rooms on 12 June 1998, lot 100 (221,500, private collection).

It was necessary for Spencer to paint landscapes during this period, and immediately after the war, as he had incurred significant debts during and after his disastrous marriage to Patricia Preece, and his dealer, Dudley Tooth, continually exhorted him to paint works that would sell easily and quickly. The quality of these landscapes, embued with Spencer's ability to depict every detail in the view he saw before him, resulted in a continual source of buyers and landscape commissions.
(see K. Bell, op. cit., pp.295, 300).