Scrubbing the Floor

Sir Stanley Spencer, CBE, RA (Cookham 1891– Cliveden 1959)
National Trust Inventory Number 790177

Category Paintings
Date 1927 (exh)
Materials Oil on canvas
Measurements 1054 x 1854 mm (41 1/2 x 73 in)
Place of origin Hampstead
Collection Sandham Memorial Chapel, Hampshire
On show at Sandham Memorial Chapel, Hampshire, London and South East, National Trust

In the first of the smaller, predella canvases painted for the chapel, a shell-shocked soldier lies prostrate in a dark hospital passageway while he obsessively scrubs the floor with a soapy rag. Above him figures rush back and forth with trays of bread.

Spencer would sometimes envy the repetitive, insular lives of the asylum patients at the Beaufort Hospital, saying ‘I would like to do things that way… I could contemplate. Nothing would disturb me’.

Summary description

Oil painting on canvas, Scrubbing the Floor by Sir Stanley Spencer, CBE, RA (Cookham 1891– Cliveden 1959), 1927. One of the first of the predella canvases, painted in Henry Lamb's studio in Hampstead, in 1927, it is now on the North wall of the chapel. It was adapted from an unrealised 1921 drawing for the Steep war memorial entitled 'Scrubbing the Floor and Soldiers Washing, Beaufort Hospital Bristol'. It was exhibited at Stanley Spencer's first solo exhibition at the Goupil Gallery, London, in March 1927.

It depicts a shell-shocked man in the hospital corridor scrubbing the floor. He has an obsessive way of throwing himself down to do the work, and the drab, featureless walls are deeply evocative of this depressing institution where Spencer began his wartime service. Two other men have come down a corridor to the painting's left, each carrying a tray loaded with loaves of bread. The foremost of the two is readjusting the loaves on his tray before proceeding.

Provenance

Given with the chapel by John Louis Behrend (1881- 1972) and Mary Sandham Behrend (1884 - 1977), 1947

Makers and roles

Sir Stanley Spencer, CBE, RA (Cookham 1891– Cliveden 1959), artist

Exhibition history

Stanley Spencer: Heaven in a Hell of War, Somerset House, London, 2013 - 2015, no.2

References

Bell 1992 Keith Bell, Stanley Spencer, A Complete Catalogue of the Paintings, Phaidon Press, London 1992, p.420
Carline 1928 Richard Carline, New Mural Paintings by Stanley Spencer, Studio, No. 96, November 1928, p.316-23, p.316-23
Behrend 1965 George Behrend, Stanley Spencer at Burghclere, London, MacDonald, 1965, p.6
Stanley Spencer (ed. Keith Bell), Royal Academy of Arts, London with Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1980, p.102-4
Robinson 1990 Duncan Robinson, Stanley Spencer, Phaidon, Oxford, 1990, p.40-41
Pople 1991 Kenneth Pople, Stanley Spencer: A Biography, Harper Collins London, 1991, p.96-97,122, 255-258
Gough 2006 Paul Gough, Stanley Spencer: Journey to Burghclere, Samson & Company, Bristol, 2006, p. 115-117

Related items

Place of origin Hampstead (18)
Materials Canvas (10037)
Oil paint (8292)
Category Paintings (12642)
Collection Sandham Memorial Chapel, Hampshire (68)
Periods 20th century (175384)
Maker Sir Stanley Spencer, CBE, RA (Cookham 1891– Cliveden 1959) (36)
Subjects
Object Type Oil painting (12274)

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