Stanley Spencer Gallery – Cookham, Berkshire – November 2018
In the Autumn of 2018, a rather fortuitous circumstance found me in the delightful Berkshire village of Cookham and the Stanley Spencer Gallery.
This charming village right by Old Father Thames was where one of England’s quirkiest painters was born and lived – Sir Stanley Spencer. In 2011 it had the dubious honour of being voted Britain’s second richest village. Having stayed there for an evening, I can see why. However, suitably replete from my previous night’s curry and gargantuan brekkie – I ventured to the Stanley Spencer Gallery.
Less is more
The gallery changes its exhibits on a regular basis. During my visit, I was treated to some of Stan’s portraits. The first thing to note about this artist is his style. It’s full of quirks and unusual subject matter. He was very preoccupied with religious imagery. Similarly he was very interested in the strange depiction of the sexes, and sex for that matter. St Francis and the Birds below was rejected by the Royal Academy in 1935. He initially identified or was associated with post impressionism. Later on in his career, he was resolutely independent.
Firstly, the gallery is quite small, but welcoming. I am not usually a big fan of portraits. But I found his work very moving. I like strange art and artists and Stan didn’t disappoint. He interpreted a lot of biblical imagery and quasi religious imagery throughout his work. Subsequently, I managed to get a superb view of Sarah Tubb and the Heavenly visitors. A great close up. Moreover, I was the only visitor to the gallery.
The painting recalls the passing of Halley’s comet in 1910. Cookham resident Granny Tubb was so taken aback that she thought it was the end of the world. So she then dropped to her knees to pray. I love the distortion of the figures and their exaggerated features for example. This work shows how Spencer tried to interpret his “village in heaven”.
In conclusion then, I recommend a visit to this delightful village and gallery if you can. But make sure you take a well stocked wallet.
Stanley Spencer Gallery
16 High St,