Yesterday we took a trip over to Compton Verney to see the new Stanley Spencer and the English garden exhibition.

Stanley Spencer "The Red House Wangford" 1926

This exhibition focuses on garden and landscape views captured by Spencer in his beloved home of Cookham. On viewing the exhibition it is amazing to discover just how much he painted from his local environment.

Stanley Spencer "Tulip Beds" 1936

He was well-known quite soon in his life and could have travelled far and wide no doubt, but the bulk of his painting was done in his home village where he became a well-known, eccentric figure.

Stanley Spencer "Gardens in the Pound Cookham" 1936

He particularly liked to explore where nature and building or architecture meet, and would often capture plants boxed in my man-made fences or walls, trees climbing up brick work, new house builds bordering onto countryside.

Stanley Spencer Cookham Rise cottages 1935

He was fascinated by people’s own private haven and what a person’s own garden might say about them and what might lie behind a manicured lawn or tidy flower display. He celebrated home as heaven, seeing beauty and value in the ordinary scenes of life which very often pass us by as mundane.

Stanley Spencer "Greenhouse and Gardens" 1937

On scanning the exhibition at a glance I was struck by how dark and brown all the paintings looked. But each painting had its own amazing range of green (from blue to grey to yellows) every brown (from conker to ochre) and then flashes of red and terracotta, not so bright as to stand out but just different enough to warm and lift.

Stanley Spencer "Wisteria Cookham" 1942

Up close his brush work is awesome (literally). He could paint photo – realistically but often he painted with noticeable brushstrokes which gave the effect of tapestry stitching up close. Some of his paintings concentrate on pattern and the interplay of representing certain fabrics so much so that you look more at what the figures are wearing, than what they are doing.

Stanley Spencer "Gardening" 1945

I came away trying to place why I had felt so up-lifted and why I adore Stanley Spencer’s work so much. I think a lot of it has to with his humble ordinariness; he was a quirky but talented guy who pushed a pram full of his art materials around the village.

Stanley Spencer

There is something endearing about him. But more than that I think his celebration of life where he was living is inspirational. He prompted me to remember to see beauty in the ordinary and look for a wealth of painting content right under my nose.

BTW – all  picture plates were found in this book which is much more worth your money than the exhibition catalogue! Just saying.