Show me:
and
Clear all filters

  • 35 items
  • 25 items Explore
  • 89 items
  • 1 items
  • 3,443 items Explore
  • 97 items Explore
  • 871 items
  • 4 items
  • 220 items
  • 12,278 items Explore
  • 209 items Explore
  • 1,232 items Explore
  • 8,487 items Explore
  • 5,045 items Explore
  • 167 items Explore
  • 12,992 items Explore
  • 13,621 items Explore
  • 4,806 items Explore
  • 1 items
  • 5 items
  • 153 items Explore
  • 2,082 items Explore
  • 2 items
  • 4,748 items Explore
  • 13 items Explore
  • 437 items Explore
  • 267 items
  • 19,827 items Explore
  • 34 items Explore
  • 1,911 items Explore
  • 1,083 items Explore
  • 5 items
  • 2,048 items Explore
  • 449 items Explore
  • 920 items Explore
  • 1 items Explore
  • 5 items
  • 7 items
  • 20,119 items
  • 800 items Explore
  • 19 items
  • 73 items Explore
  • 33 items
  • 797 items
  • 20 items
  • 4 items
  • 26 items
  • 61 items
  • 28 items
  • 319 items Explore
  • 6 items
  • 44 items Explore
  • 1 items
  • 2 items
  • 2 items
  • 7 items
  • 121 items Explore
  • 119 items
  • 1 items
  • 1,020 items Explore
  • 803 items
  • 95 items
  • 27 items
  • 108 items
  • 36,606 items Explore
  • 1 items
  • 3,863 items Explore
  • 1,534 items Explore
  • 403 items
  • 158 items Explore
  • 11,001 items Explore
  • 9,686 items Explore
  • 4 items
  • 1 items
  • 38 items
  • 3 items
  • 4 items
  • 7,090 items Explore
  • 7,459 items Explore
  • 4,511 items Explore
  • 2 items
  • 1,857 items Explore
  • 1,191 items Explore
  • 22,342 items Explore
  • 3,603 items Explore
  • 17 items
  • 5 items
  • 334 items
  • 1 items
  • 1 items
  • 3,373 items Explore
  • 23 items Explore
  • 352 items Explore
  • 796 items Explore
  • 1,090 items Explore
  • 510 items Explore
  • 1,143 items Explore
  • 89 items
  • 125 items Explore
  • 6,950 items Explore
  • 170 items
  • 4 items
  • 310 items
  • 4 items
  • 2 items
  • 63 items
  • 2 items
  • 2,935 items Explore
  • 1,580 items Explore
  • 203 items
  • 91 items
  • 20,245 items Explore
  • 1,166 items Explore
  • 138 items
  • 847 items Explore
  • 32 items
  • 132 items Explore
  • 40 items
  • 20 items
  • 281 items
  • 313 items
  • 682 items Explore
  • 347 items Explore
  • 2,427 items
  • 2,525 items
  • 3 items
  • 1 items
  • 4,391 items Explore
  • 41,270 items Explore
  • 1 items
  • 3,287 items Explore
  • 275 items Explore
  • 8,559 items Explore
  • 31 items
  • 25 items
  • 304 items Explore
  • 776 items Explore
  • 3 items
  • 65 items
  • 161 items
  • 58 items
  • 52 items
  • 22,441 items Explore
  • 917 items
  • 18 items
  • 22,557 items Explore
  • 2 items
  • 2,337 items Explore
  • 1 items
  • 1,028 items Explore
  • 4 items
  • 759 items
  • 499 items
  • 3,304 items Explore
  • 175 items
  • 59 items
  • 455 items Explore
  • 3 items
  • 21 items
  • 90 items Explore
  • 76 items
  • 281 items Explore
  • 1 items
  • 6 items
  • 128 items
  • 295 items
  • 447 items
  • 286 items
  • 1 items
  • 790 items Explore
  • 271 items Explore
  • 11,293 items Explore
  • 760 items Explore
  • 6,046 items Explore
  • 2 items
  • 8,000 items Explore
  • 27 items
  • 1 items
  • 5,870 items Explore
  • 4 items
  • 3,722 items Explore
  • 9,190 items Explore
  • 7,751 items Explore
  • 185 items
  • 19 items
  • 142 items
  • 7 items
  • 853 items Explore
  • 19 items
  • 2,329 items Explore
  • 4 items
  • 1,095 items Explore
  • 269 items
  • 1 items
  • 3,540 items Explore
  • 695 items Explore
  • 18 items
  • 134 items
  • 6,716 items Explore
  • 93 items
  • 18,701 items Explore
  • 3,140 items Explore
  • 1 items
  • 7 items
  • 10,981 items Explore
  • 37 items
  • 4 items
  • 2 items
  • 21,526 items Explore
  • 38 items
  • 13,200 items Explore
  • 3,457 items Explore
  • 5,623 items Explore
  • 33 items
  • 46,023 items Explore
  • 641 items Explore
  • 415 items
  • 25,994 items Explore
  • 217 items
  • 3 items
  • 1 items
  • 35 items
  • 27 items
  • 356 items Explore
  • 636 items
  • 217 items Explore
  • 13 items
  • 12,754 items Explore
  • 1,350 items Explore
  • 3 items
  • 10,260 items
  • 9 items
  • 10 items
  • 14 items
  • 25 items
  • 1 items
  • 4,533 items Explore
  • 913 items Explore
  • 44 items
  • 1 items
  • 1 items
  • 319 items
  • 703 items Explore
  • 42 items
  • 2,285 items Explore
  • 1,662 items Explore
  • 15 items
  • 1,873 items Explore
  • 150 items
  • 81 items
  • 680 items Explore
  • 3,062 items Explore
  • 43 items
  • 17 items
  • 12 items
  • 10,675 items Explore
  • 23,138 items Explore
  • 2 items
  • 3 items
  • 1 items
  • 41 items
  • 1,372 items
  • 180 items Explore
  • 8 items
  • 92 items
  • 13,437 items Explore
  • 3,571 items Explore
  • 2,896 items Explore
  • 4,782 items Explore
  • 22 items
  • 42 items
  • 6,898 items Explore
  • 4,782 items Explore
  • 256 items Explore
  • 2,300 items Explore
  • 2,976 items Explore
  • 2 items
  • 1,902 items Explore
  • 193 items
  • 223 items Explore
  • 466 items Explore
  • 6,116 items Explore
  • 8,738 items Explore
  • 1,861 items Explore
  • 7 items
  • 5,800 items Explore
  • 3,339 items Explore
  • 11,064 items Explore
  • 1 items
  • 86 items
  • 11 items
  • 1,793 items Explore
  • 7 items
  • 24 items
  • 51 items
  • 6 items
  • 1 items
  • 4,156 items Explore
  • 611 items Explore
  • 72 items
  • 17 items
  • 153 items Explore
  • 1 items
  • 87 items Explore
  • 460 items
  • 7 items
  • 996 items Explore
  • 3,610 items Explore
  • 4 items
  • 5 items
  • 9,478 items Explore
  • 48 items Explore
  • 3 items
  • 7 items
  • 42 items
  • 3 items
  • 13,745 items Explore
  • 1,164 items Explore
  • 92 items
  • 10,562 items Explore
  • 1,920 items
  • 24 items
  • 7,831 items Explore
  • 21 items
  • 12,938 items Explore
  • 1,417 items Explore
  • 8 items
  • 9,675 items Explore
  • 15,111 items Explore
  • 4 items
  • 1,667 items Explore
  • 181 items Explore
  • 4 items
  • 5,684 items Explore
  • 12,134 items Explore
  • 48 items
  • 25 items
  • 2 items
  • 3 items
  • 7,246 items Explore
  • 369 items Explore
  • 13 items
  • 4 items
  • 6 items
  • 103 items Explore
  • 7 items
  • 5 items
  • 491 items
  • 664 items Explore
  • 8,374 items Explore
  • 55 items
  • 7,344 items Explore
  • 5 items
  • 26 items
  • 4,479 items Explore
  • 420 items
  • 6 items
  • 205 items Explore
  • 12,702 items Explore
  • 55 items
  • 20 items
  • 7 items
  • 4 items
  • 325 items Explore
  • 434 items
  • 535 items
  • 3,703 items Explore
  • 27 items
  • 1,232 items Explore
  • 2,502 items Explore
  • 734 items Explore
  • 36 items
  • 1,139 items Explore
  • 97 items Explore
  • 24 items
  • 226 items Explore
  • 78,653 items Explore
  • 3,065 items Explore
  • 2,843 items Explore
  • 63 items
  • 5,239 items Explore
  • 1,831 items Explore
  • 4 items
  • 17,442 items Explore
  • 4,996 items Explore
  • 1 items
  • 7 items
  • 632 items Explore
  • 85 items
  • 1 items
  • 31 items
  • 1 items
  • 76 items
  • 29 items
  • 86 items
  • 3 items
  • 1,177 items Explore
  • 109 items
  • 805 items
  • 12,214 items Explore
  • 27 items
  • 13 items
  • 1,560 items Explore
  • 214 items
  • 17,028 items Explore
  • 85 items
  • 17 items
  • 1 items
  • 8 items
  • 324 items
  • 2 items
  • 627 items Explore
  • 1,584 items Explore
  • 8 items
  • 1,041 items Explore
  • 2 items
  • 261 items

Select a time period

Or choose a specific year

Clear all filters

The Resurrection of the Soldiers

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

Category

Art / Oil paintings

Date

1928 - 1929

Materials

Oil on canvas

Measurements

6405 x 5260 mm (252 1/8 x 207 1/8 in)

Place of origin

Burghclere

Order this image

Collection

Sandham Memorial Chapel, Hampshire

NT 790185

Caption

The artist Sir Stanley Spencer (1891–1959) had an unflinching eye for capturing everyday detail and instilling it with meaning. His commission for Sandham Memorial Chapel, one of the greatest painted schemes of 20th-century British art, is utterly remarkable. Spencer served in the First World War as a medical orderly outside Bristol, and then on the Macedonian front, and later drew on his experiences to create this masterpiece. The paintings were commissioned by John Louis Behrend (1881–1972) and his wife Mary (1884–1977) as a memorial to Mary’s brother Henry ‘Hal’ Sandham (1876–1920), who had also served in Macedonia and died of an illness after the war. Many of the paintings depict ordinary scenes, such as hospital interiors, the wounded arriving by bus, an inspection of kit, and tasks such as cleaning, preparing food, sorting laundry and filling tea urns. One painting, Map Reading, depicts an officer on horseback consulting a map with Macedonian place names while soldiers pick berries. The simplicity and banal nature of these subjects, showing both military personnel and civilians, provided a type of antidote to the remembered horrors of war. The chapel was given to the Trust in 1947 by the original patrons.

Summary

Oil painting on canvas, The Resurrection of the Soldiers by Sir Stanley Spencer, CBE, RA (Cookham 1891– Cliveden 1959), 1928/9, East Wall, Sandham Memorial Chapel, Burghclere. Soldiers and war mules are resurrected from death and are shown emerging from their graves, reawakening to peace. Clusters and ranks of white crosses litter the scene, some being carried by soldiers. The central motif is a pair of fallen mules, still harnessed to a collapsed timber wagon. These were based on Spencer's recollection of a dead Bulgarian mule team and ammunition limber on the Macedonian front. The mules turn towards Christ, the figure in white carrying a cross. Between the mules and Christ is a young soldier, lying on waggon boards and intently studying a white crucifix. In the distance are rolling hills and men under earth graves which resemble blankets. The foreground directly relates to the altar and was intended, according to Spencer, as 'a sort of portrait gallery formed by soldiers coming out of the ground and the crosses arranged so as to look like frames'. The soldiers emerge from their graves through a tangle of crosses, shaking hands with their resurrected comrades, cleaning buttons and winding puttees. See NT 719806-719807, 790204-790206, 790208-790209 for associated sketches.

Full description

The mural cycle for the Sandham Memorial Chapel in Burghclere, Hampshire, is regarded as one of the greatest war memorials of the twentieth century. Its nineteen canvases convey not the horror and bloodshed of the battlefield, but the quotidian routines and human interactions Spencer himself experienced, first as an orderly for the Royal Army Medical Corps (1915), and later as an orderly and infantryman on the Macedonian Front (1916-7). The scheme is comprised of sixteen predella and round-arched oil paintings on canvas and two lengths of oil on canvas extending to the ceilings, adhered to the north and south walls. Filling the entire east wall behind the altar is the startlingly powerful Resurrection, the largest single canvas in the series. The cycle begins with a convoy of injured soldiers returned home for treatment at Beaufort Hospital, Bristol. Originally an asylum, the hospital was commandeered during the First World War but retained a permanent wing for the mentally ill. Having enlisted in the RAMC after the outbreak of war (1914), Spencer was posted to Beaufort in July 1915. He observed life and service at Beaufort with acute interest, committing to memory scenes he would later transfer onto the walls of Sandham Chapel. Spencer found most of his daily work tedious, but absorbed with grim fascination everything he saw, from sponges to frostbitten toes. His natural ebullience and curiosity ameliorated what he called the ‘innumerable unanalysable mental shocks’ of hospital work (Notebook, 1944-5, Tate Archive, TGA 733.3.85). A man of intense albeit idiosyncratic Christian faith, Spencer also believed that menial work and everyday things had spiritual value: a notion taken from the Confessions of St Augustine, which had been introduced to him by his long-term friend, the poet Desmond Chute. The scenes at Sandham are thus composed of and reveal essential aspects of human existence: the daily needs and struggles of men over passages of time. In the second canvas, for example, Spencer depicts orderlies on the bread-run who narrowly miss a solider lying prostrate and shell-shocked at the corner of a dark corridor, obsessively scrubbing a patch of floor. In subsequent scenes the bodily processes which set the rhythms of hospital life are subject. The third canvas, Ablutions, shows soldiers washing and shaving at sinks while one man’s wounds are daubed with iodine; in a later predella, frostbitten feet are forensically inspected to prevent necrosis. Nearby, convalescents on a ward tuck in to stacks of soft white bread, generously buttered and served with jam, as others snooze and one young man carefully combs a parting into his hair. In other scenes orderlies sort through mounds of laundry and fill tea urns in the kitchens, the only part of the hospital shared by working psychiatric patients. In the summer of 1916, Spencer was transferred overseas to Macedonia where the Salonika campaign was underway. It was his first time abroad. He served with the field ambulance divisions before volunteering, in August 1917, for the 7th battalion Royal Berkshires and spent several months on the front line. The first canvas to depict Macedonia is Dug-Out, in which soldiers in trenches ready themselves for combat. Looming over them are ominous storm-clouds rendered as densely packed and rusting loops of barbed wire. The persistent threat of disease is alluded to in Reveille, in which a cloud of malarial mosquitos hover above men shrouded in protective nets. Malaria claimed 160,000 casualties during the campaign, and Spencer himself fell victim (three times), as did the Chapel’s dedicatee, Hal Sandham. Rest and replenishment comes in the form of Map Reading, a scene redolent of lazy summer days in England but which actually shows a route-march in Macedonia. Pausing en-route, the officer commanding reads a map while troops fan out around him to nap on grassy verges and gorge on berries. The tranquillity and abundance of the scene is a counterpoint to Filling Waterbottles, the adjacent panel, in which infantrymen scramble to quench their thirst in the blistering Macedonian heat. The Resurrection of the Soldiers, an emotive and monumental pièce de résistance, occupies the six-by-five metre wall behind the high altar and shows the war-dead coming back to life, to a time of peace. Spencer wrote that he had ‘buried so many people and saw so many dead bodies’ during the war ‘that he felt that death could not be the end of everything’ (cited in Gough 2006, p. 152). In the foreground, behind the altar and in direct relation to it, men emerge from the earth and through the disorderly mass of white wooden crosses that marked their graves. Each one of the many crosses depicted serve as objects of devotion, some are being carried by soldiers to Christ, the diminutive figure robed in white, near the apex of the picture. Spencer had explored the theme in the celebrated tableau The Resurrection, Cookham (Tate N04239) and would return to it in the years that followed. The commission Constructed to designs by Lionel Pearson in the 1920s, Sandham Memorial Chapel was purpose-built to house Spencer’s mural cycle. Both building and decorative scheme were commissioned by the visionary art patrons and collectors John Louis Behrend (1881-1972) and Mary Behrend (1883-1977). The Behrends lived in Burghclere and had been introduced to Spencer through the artist Henry Lamb (1883-1960). Consecrated as an Oratory to All Souls, the chapel was built to commemorate Mary’s brother Henry (Hal) Willoughby Sandham, who, like Spencer and Lamb, had served in Macedonia but who had died of malaria-related illness in 1919. Although the mural cycle was painted on canvas, Spencer had originally intended to execute it in fresco, in keeping with his main point of reference, the fresco cycle painted by Giotto di Bondone (1267-1337) for the Scrovegni Chapel, Padua. His love for Giotto and other Italian early-Renaissance artists began as a student at the Slade School of Art (1908-12), and developed through regular visits to the National Gallery and to exhibitions of Italian Renaissance art mounted in the pre-war years at the Royal Academy, the Burlington Fine Arts Club and the Grafton Gallery. Spencer brought his art books with him during his military service, ‘So that even Giotto is dragged into this drill’ (Spencer to Desmond Chute, quoted in Carline 1978, pp. 62-3). After a painting exhibition to Yugoslavia in 1922, Spencer began making drawings for a series of war paintings based on his experiences in Macedonia and Beaufort. These would develop into the detailed pencil and wash studies for site-specific murals made in the summer of 1923 at Henry Lamb’s house in Poole. Echoing the Scrovegni Chapel, the architectural scheme Spencer envisaged had sidewalls in two registers with a series of arched upper panels and predellas, and an unbroken end wall behind the altar. The Behrends saw these designs on a visit to Lamb’s house that year, and Spencer’s ‘Holy Box’ was set in motion. Some of the early panels were painted at Lamb’s studio in Hampstead which the artist rented before moving to Burghclere to work in situ in 1926. The cycle was completed in 1932.

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

References

Behrend 1965: George Behrend, Stanley Spencer at Burghclere, London 1965, pp. 14-31 Carline 1978: Richard Carline, Stanley Spencer at War, London 1978, pp. 192,195 Bell, Carline and Causey 1980: Keith Bell, Richard Carline and Andrew Causey, Stanley Spencer (exh.cat., Royal Academy, London 1980) Robinson 1990: Duncan Robinson, Stanley Spencer, Oxford 1990, pp. 44-45 Pople 1991: Kenneth Pople, Stanley Spencer: A Biography,London 1991 Bell 1992: Keith Bell, Stanley Spencer, A Complete Catalogue of the Paintings, London 1992, pp. 421-422 Malvern, 2000: Sue Malvern. “Memorizing the Great War: Stanley Spencer at Burghclere.” Art History 23 2000: pp.182-204., pp. 187, 199-200 Hyman and Wright 2001: Timothy Hyman and Patrick Wright, Stanley Spencer (exh.cat. Tate, London 2001) Glew 2001: Adrian Glew (ed.), Stanley Spencer: Letters and Writings, (Tate, London 2001) Gough 2006: Paul Gough, Stanley Spencer: Journey to Burghclere, Bristol 2006, pp. 162-170 Bradley and Watson 2013: Amanda Bradley and Howard Watson (eds.) Stanley Spencer, Heaven in a Hell of War, (exh.cat. Somerset House, London and Pallant House, Chichester 2013-14 Bromwell 2014: Tom Bromwell, ‘The “God Box” of Burghclere, National Trust Historic Houses & Collections Annual, Apollo, 2014, pp. 54-9 Gough 2017: Paul Gough et al, ‘The Holy Box’, The Genesis of Stanley Spencer’s Sandham Memorial Chapel, (Samson and Co, Bristol 2017)

View more details

Related articles