Sir Stanley Spencer

Dinner on the Hotel Lawn

1956–7

Medium
Oil paint on canvas
Dimensions
Support: 949 x 1359 mm
Collection
Tate
Acquisition
Presented by the Trustees of the Chantrey Bequest 1957
Reference
T00141

Display caption

Spencer remained a dominant figure in British painting even towards the end of his life. Many of his works, including Dinner on the Hotel Lawn, are set in his native village of Cookham in Berkshire. This painting belongs to a series, begun in 1952, based on his memories of the Cookham Regatta in Edwardian days. Spencer imagined Cookham as a church building: ‘The Village Street of Cookham was to be the Nave and the river which runs behind the street was a side aisle’. He later commented of the Regatta pictures ‘I seem to have forgotten about the food’, which seems particularly strange in this depiction of an outdoor meal.

Gallery label, July 2007

Catalogue entry

T00141 DINNER ON THE HOTEL LAWN 1956–7

Not inscribed.
Canvas, 37 3/8×53 1/2 (95×136).
Chantrey Purchase from the artist through Arthur Tooth & Sons 1957.
Exh: To-day and Yesterday, Tooth's, February–March 1957 (3); R.A., 1957 (131).
Lit: Collis, 1962, pp.218, 226, 247.
Repr: Royal Academy Illustrated, 1957, p.37.

This is the fourth of the ‘Cookham Regatta’ series begun in 1952, and was painted during 1956–7. This series forms the second part of a scheme conceived in 1933 as a sequel to the Burghclere Chapel decorations, but with the action this time taking place in the artist's native village of Cookham and planned somewhat thus: ‘The Village Street of Cookham was to be the Nave and the river which runs behind the street was a side aisle... the more recent “Listening from Punts” Regatta scene is a side aisle fragment’ (S. Spencer, introduction to the exhibition catalogue, Tate Gallery, November–December 1955, p.3). The artist explained that he drew upon his memories of the Regatta at Cookham in Edwardian days with, in the centre, Christ imagined as preaching from the Horse Ferry barge and taking the place of the concert usually held on the same barge. This large central picture of Christ preaching remained unfinished at the artist's death and is now on permanent loan from Lord Astor to the Stanley Spencer Gallery, Cookham.

He also commented (letter of 3 September 1957) that the long tables, a little reminiscent of the long punts, occur only in the Tate painting, whereas in others of the series they are square. ‘In all of them I seem to have forgotten about the food, square or long table. And I was annoyed to notice that I had made the servants putting the knives on the wrong side: & they are doing it so nicely!’ The scene is visualized as taking place on the lawn of the Ferry Hotel.

Published in:
Mary Chamot, Dennis Farr and Martin Butlin, The Modern British Paintings, Drawings and Sculpture, London 1964, II

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