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Kunsthal Rotterdam Presents Sir Stanley Spencer. Between Heaven and Earth

The Kunsthal Rotterdam presents a comprehensive overview of work by Sir Stanley Spencer (1891-1959), one of the most important British artists of the twentieth century. On view to 15 January 2012.

Sir Stanley Spencer The Garage Cookham 1929, Collection of the Andrew Webber Foundation, London

His oeuvre is characterised by a wealth of themes that include biblical stories, landscapes, self portraits and domestic scenes. With his figurative, narrative style of painting and his choice of subjects, Spencer has contributed significantly to the development of modern art. He deals with his turbulent life through his paintings, also incorporating countless contrasts and visionary fantasies. In this exhibition, over eighty paintings and drawings from Stanley Spencer are placed in an art historical context by including twenty works of English contemporaries such as Lucian Freud and Dora Carrington. Spencer’s artistic influence in the Netherlands is illustrated using several works by Dick Ket and Charley Toorop, in which work Spencer’s influence is clearly visible.

As a young artist, Stanley Spencer was a great admirer of Italian Renaissance art by Giotto, romantic Pre-Raphaelite art, and later Paul Gauguin, whose work he saw in London. Spencer spent most of his life in Cookham, a village that played an important role in many of his works and also served as a backdrop for his narrative images. Certain major events such as his active participation in the First World War and his unhappy love life formed the inspiration to his paintings. Spencer developed a poignantly realistic style by placing the most intensive of his life experiences in faithful reproductions of his beloved home surroundings. His fascination with ‘earthy’ materials like dust, dirt and rubbish form a stark contrast with his ‘heavenly’ renditions of Christ. Spencer allows reality to dominate in his silent landscapes and intimate portraits, while fantasy and joie de vivre enjoy their heyday in top works such as ‘TheResurrection, Cookham’ and the ‘Beatitudes’ series. Spencer’s work brings together countless aspects of life, including love, sexuality, death, religion, reality and fantasy. –

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