Stanley Spencer, Tea in the Hospital Ward, 1927-1932 © the estate of Stanley Spencer 2013. All rights reserved DACs. National Trust Images / John Hammond

Artist Stanley Spencer's First World War masterpieces go on show in UK city of Chichester

Posted on on 16 February 2014
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There's a fresh opportunity to see a touring exhibition of murals by the acclaimed British artist, Stanley Spencer, based on his experiences of the First World War.

Widely considered to be Spencer's finest achievement, the large scale canvas panels are on display at Pallant House Gallery in Chichester, West Sussex, until 15th June 2014.

The paintings, previously exhibited at Somerset House in London, are temporarily away from their permanent home at Sandham Memorial Chapel near Burghclere in Berkshire while major conservation work is carried out at the National Trust property.

They were created between 1927 and 1932 and represent Spencer's wartime service as a hospital orderly in Bristol and as a soldier on the Salonika Front in Northern Greece.

The first paintings in the series focus on the ten months Spencer served at Beaufort Military Hospital in Bristol in 1915, a challenging episode in his life which, until that point, had never taken him beyond his family home at Cookham in Berkshire.  Works such as Tea in the Hospital Ward (pictured, top) show some of the camaraderie and tenderness he witnessed between the patients. 

In May 1916 Spencer was drafted to Salonika (now Thessaloniki) where he served for eighteen months with the Field Ambulance. 

Although he saw the devastating effects of war at first hand,  Spencer avoided representing scenes of bloodshed. Instead, he evoked everyday experiences such as sorting laundry and taking tea which, to those from the battlefield, represented a ‘heaven in a hell of war.’

Stanley Spencer: Heaven in a Hell of War, co-curated by the National Trust, can be seen at Pallant House Gallery in Chichester until 15th June 2014. The paintings return to Sandham Memorial Chapel in July 2014.

Source: Pallant House Gallery press release

Images: Stanley Spencer, Tea in the Hospital Ward, south wall at Sandham Memorial Chapel, Burghclere, Hampshire, 1927-1932 © the estate of Stanley Spencer 2013. All rights reserved DACs. National Trust Images / John Hammond

Posted by: Peter Alhadeff, Centenary News