Friday, 24 June 2011

I loved Jane's idea of making a Grand Provincial Tour by train. I'd happily spend a couple of weeks visiting paintings in far-flung corners of England.
Today was more of a Grand Provincial Day Out but I did go by train to see this wonderful exhibition of Stanley Spencer's garden and landscape paintings.
And as Jane planted the idea ... here's some tulips for her.
I've never visited Compton Verney before but it must be the loveliest setting for an art gallery in England, and I only wish I'd had more time to enjoy the park. But what a stunning exhibition... Spencer self-deprecatingly called these his 'pot-boilers' but Cookham village was his little bit of heaven on earth, the setting for his great religious works. It was easy to imagine Stanley as a child, peeping over walls and through privet hedges to see into his neighbours' gardens. I love the way he paints front gardens the size of postage stamps, as well as manicured lawns; the lobelia and snapdragon classes in red-brick villas as well as posher people's wisteria. I knew that thoughts of Cookham had sustained him through WWI, but I'd never noticed before how even these garden paintings are haunted by images of war, how the fences between the prim gardens of a terrace of workers' cottages can bring to mind trench ramparts, how corn stooks in a field resemble lines of military tents. But there must have been so many men of that generation, going about their ordinary business when anything - a sudden noise, a glimpse of something out of the corner of their eye - could transport them back to a battlefield or a camp.

8 comments:

rachel said...

Lovely to be reminded... I saw a wonderful exhibition of Stanley Spencer's work some years ago (well, about 19 or 20) in Newcastle, and was amazed by the war artist works as well as the glorious villagers. I don't recall any landscapes; wish I could have caught this exhibition.

mary said...

It's on until Oct, Rachel, so there's plenty of time! Landscapes was his umbrella term for all his flower and garden paintings, as well as what we'd normally think of as landscapes.

Lucille said...

Yes I read that post and thought how brilliant. I've been to the Cookham gallery but would love to do Warwick. A plan is forming.

mary said...

I have to say Cookham is easier to get to, Lucille. But this is a lovely exhibition. Five* from me.

kristina said...

Oh this sounds like a fantastic exhibition. K x

Toffeeapple said...

What a marvellous artist he was. Thank you for telling us about the exhibition.

StuckInABook said...

Gosh, this looks wonderful, and he is one of my favourite painters. I'm off to find out where Compton Verney is...

mary said...

Simon, it might not too bad for you coming from Oxford. It's not far from Banbury. It was stunning, well worth the trip.