Oil painting on canvas, Ablutions by Sir Stanley Spencer, CBE, RA (Cookham 1891– Cliveden 1959), 1928. In the centre, an orderly is painting a soldier’s side with iodine in a scene reminiscent of Christ being lowered from the cross with the gaping wound produced by the Holy Lance; behind him another soldier pulls on his braces, but similarly holds his arms in the position appropriate for a crucifixion, while others wash, dry and dress. Three men in the lower left foreground are drying themselves with towels, partially shrouding their naked bodies.
All the pathos of military hospital life is summed up in the dedicated manner in which a second orderly is polishing the basin taps. Spencer regarded the mundane activities with a sense of religious ritual and the hospital pictures symbolize a quotation from St Augustine's Confessions: '...ever busy at rest, gathering yet never needing; bearing; filling; guarding; creating; nourishing; perfecting.'
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
Stanley Spencer: Heaven in a Hell of War, Somerset House, London, 2013 - 2015, no.3
Bell 1992 Keith Bell, Stanley Spencer, A Complete Catalogue of the Paintings, Phaidon Press, London 1992, p.421
Pople 1991 Kenneth Pople, Stanley Spencer: A Biography, Harper Collins London, 1991, p.96-7
Stanley Spencer (ed. Keith Bell), Royal Academy of Arts, London with Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1980, p.104
Behrend 1965 George Behrend, Stanley Spencer at Burghclere, London, MacDonald, 1965, p.8
Pople 1991 Kenneth Pople, Stanley Spencer: A Biography, Harper Collins London, 1991, p.96-97,122
Gough 2006 Paul Gough, Stanley Spencer: Journey to Burghclere, Samson & Company, Bristol, 2006, p.121-124