Sir Stanley Spencer

Mending Cowls, Cookham


Sir Stanley Spencer 1891–1959
Oil paint on canvas
Support: 1092 × 1092 mm
frame: 1194 × 1194 × 76 mm
Presented by the Trustees of the Chantrey Bequest 1962

Display caption

The wooden cowls, which move with the wind, provide ventilation to the oast houses where hops are dried. These examples could be seen from the nursery window of Fernlea, the house in Cookham where Spencer grew up. For him, Cookham was a sacred place and, in his paintings, was often the setting for events in the Bible. Of these cowls Spencer wrote: ‘They seemed to be always looking at something and somewhere. When they veered round towards us they seemed to be looking at something above our own nursery window ... With their white wooden heads, they served as reminders of religious presence.’

Gallery label, November 2019

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Catalogue entry


Not inscribed.
Canvas, 43×43 (109×109).
Chantrey Purchase from J. L. Behrend through the Leicester Galleries 1962.
Coll: Purchased by J. L. Behrend from the artist 1915.
Exh: N.E.A.C., December 1915–January 1916 (150), as ‘Mending Cowls’; C.A.S., Paintings and Drawings, Grosvenor House, June–July 1923 (103); Goupil Gallery, February 1927 (81); British Institute of Adult Education tour, A Loan Exhibition of Paintings and Drawings, 1935–6; Leger Gallery, March–April 1939 (24), as ‘Mending Cowls, Cookham (1914)’; Paintings of Today, Oldham, June–July 1940 (7); English-Speaking Union, U.S.A. tour, British Art, The Last Fifty Years, 1900–1950, 1951 (34); Coronation Exhibition, Laing Art Gallery, Newcastle upon Tyne, 1953 (39); Tate Gallery, November–December 1955 (11); The J. L. Behrend Collection, Leicester Galleries, May 1962 (33, repr. p.10); R.A., 1963 (83).
Lit: Wilenski, 1924, pp.15–16, repr. pl.7; Johnson, 1932, pp.328–9; Spencer, 1961, p.112; Collis, 1962, pp.64 as painted in 1912, 243.
Repr: Newton, 1947, pl.1 (in colour).

A view from the nursery window of the artist's house at Cookham. The date is that given by the artist at the time of the retrospective exhibition 1955.

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

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