Wednesday, 28 March 2012

Stanley Spencer: Christ in the Wilderness Pt 1

The series of Paintings by Stanley Spencer  1891-1959 are very appropriate for Lent. I have only just discovered them in a book at Offa House Diocesan Retreat Centre !   I also came across a blog with the images and I have unashamedly taken a lot of these thoughts from there.  But I will deal with them in 2 blogs  of 4 images each.

They are powerful images of Christ's humanity in his (Lenten) 40 days in the Wilderness.   The text is taken from a leaflet produced by the Art Gallery of Western Australia which houses all the paintings.




Driven by the Spirit  into the wilderness (1942)  
And immediately the Spirit driveth him into the wilderness.’ Mark 1:12 
In 1916, Spencer served with the Field Ambulances in Macedonia.This experience had a profound effect on the artist, the memories of war infiltrated his spirit - the massive figure strides through a bleak and desolate land with the promise of resurrection in the figure of Christ.



Rising from sleep in the morning  (1940)  
‘I will arise and go to my Father, and will say unto him, Father, I have sinned against Heaven and before thee.’ Luke 15:18
In this work Christ appears like a flower opening, offering itself for pollination in the light of the new day. The circular composition of the figure is continued in the rocky lining of the pit in which Christ kneels.



He Departed to the mountain to pray (1939)
‘And when he had sent them away he departed into a mountain to pray.’ Mark 6:46 
Look at the simple but monumental composition where the enlarged arms and hands encourage the focus on the praying figure which fills the picture plane, pushing out the edges. Notice the similarity of the treatment of the robes and the altar which adds to the unity of the composition.



The Eagles   (1943) 
‘For wheresover the carcase is, there will the eagles be gathered together.’ Matthew 24:28 
There is a definite bitter note in The Eagles where Christ looks away while the scavenging birds peck at the carcases. In the background a broken branch completes the pessimistic atmosphere. It also reflects the artist’s over-riding acceptance and respect for all natural life.




There is something very engaging about the images, Christ's humanity and homeliness, his largess and the way his dominates and fills the square canvas. The attention to detail, the sense of movement, the variety of postures. I think they are wonderful and hope you enjoy them too ...


1 comment:

offer waterman said...

Thanks for sharing this post, it was really amazing & informative about stanley spencer painting.
Offer Waterman & Co.