Stanley Spencer (1891-1959):
Study for 'Christ Carrying the Cross', 1920
Framed (ref: 8041)
Oil and pencil on paper
Provenance: Sir Hugh Walpole; Christie's 1947; Christie's 1996
This is one of the final studies for the painting Christ Carrying the Cross, purchased by the Contemporary Art Society for the Tate collection in 1921.
The events depicted were inspired by Spencer's memories of Cookham in childhood, when he watched the people pass by in the High Street on Sundays and in the evenings. He used the street as the setting of several of his religious paintings. In this one, the house shown was the artist's home, Fernlea, and the workmen carrying ladders are passing the Nest, the ivy-clad home of his grandmother. Spencer commented that he had made several drawing attempts of the cross and disciples ranged somewhat procession-wise either side of it, some of the soldiers helping in the carrying of the cross, some escorting them. This final study, which is in its original frame, is close in appearance to the finished painting.
Spencer was a devout Christian and believed God resided in all things and the miraculous could be found in everyday events. In his paintings, Cookham ï¿½ the small town on the Thames where he lived ï¿½ becomes the setting for scenes from the life of Christ and other Christian narratives. This is one of a series of scenes from the Passion of Christ. Carpenters walking down Cookham High Street form a link with Christï¿½s carrying the cross through Jerusalem.