Stanley Spencer: Heaven in a Hell of War Exhibition


Stanley Spencer was a British painter, predominately focussing on figurative art, born 1891 – 1959. His work portrayed everyday life and his surrounding experiences. He painted in a realistic manner but was not overtly concerned with exact proportions and perspective of the scenes and figures he would portray. By distorting his figures and sense of space for dramatic effect he was able express the certain emotions he was trying to convey in particular scenes.

In WW1 Spencer served as a medic and later a war Artist. After the war, in 1923, Spencer was commissioned to paint his experiences as a memorial to the War, which produced a large project depicted over 8 large panels.. The panels were then completed in 1932 and the Sandham Memorial Chapel was built to house the collection. Many artists may have depicted the bloodshed and atrocities of war but instead Spencer chose to depict the everyday banal lives of the soldiers, nurses and people effected in the war. In doing this I believe Spencer added an element of the human touch, something we can all relate too. It is said that the menial became the miraculous; a form of reconciliation for Spencer and you can get a real sense of this throughout this work.

The exhibition at Manchester Art Gallery comprises of the 8 panels (on loan from Sandham). They cover the entire walls of Gallery 9. They stand tall and you can’t help but be drawn into the scenes and their attention to detail – Amazing when you think that each scene has been painted entirely from Spencer’s imagination.

Detail from Map-reading by Stanley Spencer at Sandham Memorial Chapel, Burghclere, Hampshire.

Spencer has always been an Artist that I have admired and is looked upon as one of the leading figurative Artists of the 20th century.

This exhibition runs from 29 November – 1 March 2015 at The Manchester Art Gallery. After this the panels will return to Sandham Memorial Chapel, Burghclere.

More information on the exhibition and the chapel can be found on the following links;