DON’T MISS THIS EXHIBITION
People have just a few more weeks to visit The Stanley Spencer Gallery’s latest exhibition Paradise Regained. JO-ANNE ROWNEY finds out why it is a must-see
THOSE who have fought in any conflict will know how
it can be to come back to the humdrum of everyday life. For Cookham artist Sir Stanley Spencer the avenue to finding some semblance of normality was through his art.
One of the greatest painters of the 20th century, Spencer was deeply troubled on his return to his beloved home village of Cookham following the First World War.
Yet he went on in the immediate post-war years to paint many of his finest works.
Notably, all of Spencer’s paintings relating to wartime experiences reflect positive thoughts.
Now the Stanley Spencer Gallery is looking to help those who have had traumatic combat experiences, to show them the benefit art can have.
The gallery’s latest exhibition continues the theme of his recovery from his experience of the First World War.
Shez Courtenay-Smith, from the gallery, said: “Spencer did not explore any distressing memories of battle in his works, but focused on the steadfast non-fighting work undertaken both by soldiers and civilians.
“He also painted mountainous scenes and the work of mules, with which he grew familiar in his warservice years.
“He celebrated in paint, too, the peaceful values of Cookham and his heart-felt joy at his return.”
Bucks, or rather Cookham, played a central role in his works.
“Spencer had an affection for Cookham that comes across in his work,” Shez added. “It makes an appearance in his works, and is a clear influence.”
The exhibition has some of his most monumental works on loan from the Tate showing this influence, such as The Bridge 1920, with its fan-like arrangements of identically clothed young men gazing from Cookham Bridge, and the mystical Christ Carrying the Cross, set in front of Spencer’s home in Cookham High Street.
“We’d love people to come and see the exhibition before it finishes in a few weeks time,” said Shez. “Originally it was only going to run until November but we extended the run to the end of March as it’s been popular.”
The exhibition has been featured in the Wall Stree International Magazine, and visitors have come from far and wide, including the USA, Canada, Australia and South America.
The ArtFund described the gallery as one of the five most unmissable small galleries in the UK and it was also awarded a coveted Micheline Green Star this year.
“There is also a self-portrait, also on loan from the Tate,” said Shez. “Anyone who enjoys Spencer’s work or wants to see the impact of the war on a young man, or the benefits of art should come.”
There are just a few weeks left of the Paradise Regained exhibition.
The gallery is also inviting people to share their thoughts or experiences on the role art can play in healing wartime experiences.
Shez said: “The thoughts will be compiled into a compendium, so we would love to hear from everyone.”