Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Sir Stanley Spencer

Inspired by the Stanley Spencer paintings we'd seen at the Fitzwilliam Museum, MDB and I visited the Sandham Memorial Chapel in Burghclere. It was built as a memorial to Harry Sandham who died of malaria just after the end of the First World War and was therefore not officially recognised as one of the "war dead." He had served in the Salonika Campaign, as had Stanley Spencer, and his parents commissioned Spencer to paint the walls of the chapel with scenes of that campaign. You can see the everyday life of the soldiers and hospital workers: pouring tea from huge urns, scraping off the frostbite, standing in the trenches, having bread and jam in the ward (see above), polishing their buttons, scrubbing the floors etc. On the wall behind the altar is a huge mural depicting the resurrection of those soldiers, their horses, dogs and tortoises. The men burst out of their graves in the foreground, unwinding their bandages and barbed wire, stroking their dogs and holding their tortoises, with a column of resurrected horses marching towards Christ in the background.
The chapel's closing for restoration on 29 September until the end of July and sixteen of the paintings will be going on their first ever tour, to Somerset House from November until January, and then to Pallant House in Chichester.


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