Coquelicot Art of the First World War
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  104-Spencer

Sir Stanley Spencer, The Resurrection of the Soldiers, 1928-9, oil on canvas, Sandham Memorial Chapel, Burghclere.

© SESAM, Paris, 1998.

 
The death
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104 - Sir Stanley Spencer

Having decided to pay tribute to the memory of her brother Lieutenant Henry Sandham, Mary Behrend and her husband Louie commissioned Spencer to do this project. He worked on it from 1923 to 1932, from the first preparatory sketches to the production of the panels describing the fate of the wounded, from their transfer to hospital to their nursing, funerals and - on the wall at the far end of the Chapel - their resurrection. On that wall, memories of Macedonia combine with an evocation of the cemeteries of religious rather than moral inspiration. Completely opposed to both Expressionism and to the Realism of Otto Dix, Spencer devised a very studied style incorporating the static simplicity of the figures, a very deliberate naiveté of line and a choice of the sober shades of grey and ochre, leaving white the task of lightening his composition. Soldiers - all young - and horses are reborn all over, in an evocation of the battlefield where the corpses piled up. The pure, adolescent faces are pushed into the foreground as far as the horizon as night falls, following the tangle of crosses. Although the other paintings in Sandham Memorial Chapel recount and describe actual scenes, Spencer here contrives to avoid any naturalist tendency, breathing a powerful symbolic charge into his work.