Compton Verney

Accompanied the exhibition, Stanley Spencer and the English Garden, Compton Verney, Warwickshire, from 25 June – 2 October 2011.

Stanley Spencer and the English Garden

JUNE 2011, 96 pages, paperback, 260 x 216 mm, 50 colour illus.
PRICE: £16.99
ISBN: 978 1 907372 12 4



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Edited by Steven Parissien; essays by Keith Bell, Jeremy Gould, Steven Parissien, Martin Postle and Duncan Robinson

Spencer paints landscape as [the Pre-Raphaelites] did … with the same prodigious delight in all the facts of nature for their own sake. He loves to paint nettles and grasses leaf by leaf, blade by blade, as they did. He loves it all too much to leave anything out.

Stanley Spencer (1891–1959) is perhaps best known for his mystical biblical scenes and candid self-portraits, but it was his magnificent paintings of gardens, houses and landscapes, set in the small alleys and overgrown backyards of his home village of Cookham, which proved more popular during his lifetime. Published to accompany an exhibition at Compton Verney, Warwickshire, this book is the first to focus specifically on Spencer’s landscape paintings, and to consider them as a group, rather than as punctuation marks between the figure paintings. The artist’s depictions of suburban environments are examined in the context of the rapid urbanization that took place in the English countryside between the two world wars, and the enduring English obsession with gardens.

Like the best of Spencer’s figure paintings, his garden landscapes succeeded through their searching re-examination of familiar places and objects, an extraordinary control of space, and an ability to draw the viewer into looking again at everyday scenes that might otherwise had received no more than a passing glance.

This enlightening account of Spencer’s landscape paintings opens with an overview of the artist’s life and career by Duncan Robinson. This is followed by a comprehensive discussion of his garden paintings and their reception by Keith Bell. Next, Martin Postle considers depictions of the English garden, from Allingham to Spencer, while Jeremy Gould provides a comprehensive survey of landscapes and gardens during the interwar years. Finally, Steven Parissien considers Spencer’s use of architecture in his landscape paintings.

"... there is much interesting material here (on vulgarity, for instance), and anyone interested in Spencer will want to buy the book. Andrew Lambirth, in The Art Newspaper, June 2012

The exhibition was critically acclaimed. Click to read reviews by The Financial Times, The Telegraph and The Daily Mail


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