Stanley Spencer : Journey to Burghclere

Stanley Spencer : Journey to Burghclere
Author: Gough, Paul (2 October 2006)


As one of Britain's most eminent 20th century painters Stanley Spencer's work has often been overshadowed by his chaotic and colourful private life. This is the first book since Richard Carline's Stanley Spencer at War (1978) to focus entirely on the painter's service as an orderly, soldier, and patient in the First World War, and to critically evaluate his time in Bristol, the Balkans and Burghclere between 1915-1932.

Drawing on Spencer's letters, illustrations and paintings, and interviews with relatives, curators and others who knew him, Gough examines Spencer's journey from cosseted family life, through the drudgery of a war hospital and the malarial battlefields of the Macedonian campaign, to the commission for the Sandham Memorial Chapel in Burghclere. Through a close reading of contemporary texts and artwork, the book locates Spencer's work as a key component of the commemorative era after the Great War, situating Spencer's paintings of resurrection as a response to the complex bureaucracies of commemoration and a visual re-imagining of the exhumations and burials that were then taking place in battlefields across Europe. Spencer's work is examined in the context of other architects, sculptors and soldier-artists of the period, but is also positioned within the discourses of haunting and memory construction.

A number of the themes in the book were aired through several conference papers: 'Resurrection: reviving the dead in the work of Stanley Spencer, Otto Dix and Jeff Wall' Spaces, Haunting, Discourse conference, Karlstad University, Sweden (15-18 June 2006); 'Heroic death: models and counter models', WAPACC conference, USA (28-30 October 2006).

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