Sir Stanley Spencer

Drawing for the Left Panel of ‘Resurrection: Rejoicing’

Not on display

Sir Stanley Spencer 1891–1959
Graphite on paper
Support: 403 × 267 mm
Purchased 1980

Display caption

These drawings are studies for a series of paintings of The Resurrection. Spencer had originally planned one huge canvas, but in the end, settled for a number of smaller, interrelated paintings. The Resurrection: Port Glasgow, the painting shown here, was to be the centrepiece of the group.

Rather than using models, Spencer worked from his imagination, often making his first sketches on strips of toilet paper, which he found useful for its length and low cost. He then copied the sketches he liked onto large sheets in a sketchbook, some of which are displayed here. He next squared up the drawings and transferred them on to canvas to be painted.

In Spencer''s homely vision of this Christian day of reckoning, rising from the grave seems to be rather like waking up in bed. He presents an idealised version of family life in which the whole community relaxes together, yawning, stretching, brushing their hair, embracing. Most of the figures wear loose pyjama-like clothing, some dance, some garden. It is a solid, earthly heaven, in which memories of childhood comfort and domesticity are mingled with adult dreams of erotic love.

Gallery label, August 2004

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Catalogue entry

[from] DRAWINGS FROM A SKETCH BOOK c. mid 1940s [T03035-T03050; T03061 and T03062; complete]

Pencil, each 15 7/8 × 10 7/8 (40.4 × 27.6) with the exception of T03044 which is 10 7/8 × 15 7/8 (27.6 × 40.4). All are inscribed on the verso with densely packed writing in Spencer's hand
Purchased from Mrs J.M. Fothergill-Smith (Grant-in-Aid) 1979
Prov: Purchased by Mrs Fothergill-Smith at various times between 1955 and 1959 from the artist through Messrs Tooth with the exception of T03043 and T03048 which were purchased directly from the artist in 1955
Lit: R.H. Wilenski, Stanley Spencer Resurrection Pictures (1945–1950) with notes by the artist, 1951; Keith Bell in catalogue of exhibition Stanley Spencer RA, RA, 1980, pp.196–208

Between 1940 and 1946 Stanley Spencer painted a series of pictures on the theme of shipbuilding on the Clyde for the War Artists Advisory Committee and which is now in the Imperial War Museum. In May 1940 Spencer visited Lithgow's shipyards at Port Glasgow where he made drawings on which the first of the shipbuilding series was based. He made other visits to Port Glasgow between 1940 and 1945. Later Spencer wrote in one of his notebooks: ‘One evening in Port Glasgow when unable to sleep due to a jazz band playing in the drawing-room just below me, I walked up along the road past the gasworks to where I saw a cemetery on a gently rising slope...I seemed then to see that all in the plain were resurrecting and moving towards it... I knew then that the resurrection would be directed from this hill’ (quoted by Wilenski, Stanley Spencer: Resurrection Pictures 1945–50, 1951). A painting by Spencer of the Port Glasgow Cemetery executed in 1946 belongs to the British Council.

Spencer planned a large stepped canvas fifty feet across with Christ in Judgement as figures rise from their graves. As this was impractical he painted a series of smaller, independent pictures. Three derived from the original idea: ‘The Resurrection, Port Glasgow’ 1947–50 (Coll. Tate Gallery), ‘The Hill of Zion’, 1946 (Coll. Harris Museum and Art Gallery, Preston) and ‘The Angels of the Apocalypse’ 1949, (Coll. Dr. the Hon. C. H. T. Chubb). Paintings in the series, relating to the Resurrection and based on the Port Glasgow Cemetery were:

1. ‘The Resurrection: Waking Up’ 1945 (Coll. The Nevill Gallery, Canterbury and Bath)

2. ‘The Resurrection: Tidying’ 1945 (Coll. Birmingham City Art Gallery)

3. ‘The Resurrection: Reunion of Families’ 1945 (Coll. Dundee Art Gallery)

4. ‘The Resurrection: Reunion’ 1945 (Coll. Aberdeen Art Gallery and Museum)

5. ‘The Resurrection: Rejoicing’ 1947 (Coll. The Beaverbrook Art Gallery, Fredericton, New Brunswick)

A further painting ‘The Resurrection with the Raising of Jairus's Daughter’, 1947, was conceived originally in 1939 while Spencer was staying at Leonard Stanley in Gloucestershire and was not based on the Port Glasgow Cemetery.

Spencer made drawings for the Port Glasgow Resurrection series in one or more ‘Derwent’ scrapbooks bought from the stationer in Leonard Stanley in 1939. Nos. T03036-T03050 and T03061 all relate to paintings in the Port Glasgow Resurrection series; no painting is known which relates to T03062.


Inscribed t.r..‘29’ and ‘31’ in pencil and ‘61’ in red crayon
This squared-up drawing is close to the painting in composition.

Published in:
The Tate Gallery 1978-80: Illustrated Catalogue of Acquisitions, London 1981

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