Sir Stanley Spencer

The Resurrection: Port Glasgow


Not on display

Sir Stanley Spencer 1891–1959
Oil paint on canvas
Support: 2146 × 6655 mm
Presented by the Trustees of the Chantrey Bequest 1950

Display caption

This painting is set in the cemetery in Scottish town of Port Glasgow. It shows the Resurrection, the Christian belief that at the end the world, everyone who has ever existed will be brought back to life. Local people climb out of their graves, greet one another and raise their hands in ecstatic gratitude. Spencer was inspired to create it when he chanced upon the hill-side cemetery. He was in Port Glasgow to paint the shipyards at work as an official war artist during the Second World War.

Gallery label, August 2019

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Catalogue entry


Not inscribed.
Canvas, 84 1/2×262 (215×665).
Chantrey Purchase from the artist 1950.
Exh: R.A., 1950 (557), as ‘The Resurrection’; Tate Gallery, November–December 1955 (74).
Lit: Britain To-Day, July 1950, pp.36–7; Resurrection Pictures (1945–50), 1951, pp.2–4, 6–10, repr. pls.2–4 and cover (details), all in colour; Studio, CXLVII, 1954, p.37; John Rothenstein, Modern British Painters: Lewis to Moore, 1956, pp.193–8; Collis, 1962, pp.193–9, 211–12, 215, 224, 247.

This work, painted between 1947 and 1950, is the last of a series of eight on the theme of the Resurrection. The inspiration for these came to the artist whilst working on his shipyard pictures at Port Glasgow in 1943–4. One evening he chanced upon a hill-side cemetery during his walks in the town and was prompted to begin a number of drawings for a large picture of the Resurrection, which he envisaged as taking place in the cemetery, the resurrected persons climbing the cemetery hill, which became the Hill of Sion. The people of the shipyards and the shipyard town were therein to be ‘redeemed’; they would have their apotheosis. As the practical difficulties of painting a single huge picture proved too great, he decided to use the drawings in a series of interrelated pictures each with three or five panels and each with separate existence -though all could, if circumstances permitted, be eventually combined. The artist has written detailed notes on many of these paintings in Stanley Spencer: Resurrection Pictures (1945–1950), 1951.

N05961 was intended to go below ‘The Hill of Sion’ and is divided into the following main groups, reading from left to right: ‘(1) the book-group and sailor-group (2) the granite-lid-raising group (3) the table-tomb (centre) group (4) the hands-raised-ecstasy group (5) the girl-helped-from-grave group together with the grave-digger who calmly surveys the whole scene’ (op. cit., p.10).

The remaining paintings of the series depict ‘Reunion of Families’ (1945), ‘Waking Up’ (1945), ‘Tidying’ (1945), ‘Reunion’ (1945), ‘The Resurrection with Raising of Jairus’ Daughter' (1947), ‘Rejoicing’ and ‘The Hill of Sion’ (1946).

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

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