Sir Stanley Spencer

Turk’s Boatyard Cookham


Not on display

Sir Stanley Spencer 1891–1959
Oil paint on canvas
Support: 635 × 765 mm
frame: 795 × 925 × 75 mm
Bequeathed by Mrs I.M. Andrews 1970

Display caption

This work shows the same location as Swan Upping at Cookham 1914–19. It is painted in a strikingly different style, however. Spencer may have been aware that this realistic depiction of the riverside would be more commercially successful than his visionary approach. He wrote to the buyer that her purchase of the work had helped him meet expenses, including a recent operation and the purchase of a house for £1,000.

Gallery label, October 2020

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Catalogue entry

Sir Stanley Spencer 1891–1959

T01207 Turk’s Boatyard, Cookham c.1931

Not inscribed.
Canvas, 25 x 30¿ (63.5 x 76.5).
Bequeathed by Mrs I. M. Andrews 1970.
Coll: Purchased by Mrs Andrews from the artist through the Goupil Gallery, 1931.
Exh: The Goupil Gallery Salon, Goupil Gallery 1931, (73) as ‘Turks Boat-house, Cookham’.

In an undated letter to Mrs Andrews, written at Burghclere, the artist wrote that her purchase of this picture came at an opportune moment as he had many expenses to meet; these included the costs of a recent operation and of buying a house for £1,000; the purchase agreement for the house arrived by the same post as Mrs Andrews’s letter mentioning her purchase. In his biography of Spencer, 1962, Maurice Collis writes (pp. 100–1): ‘In the course of 1930 and 1931 Spencer made visits [from Burghclere] to Cookham... He was looking for a house to buy... After a stay of a month in October 1931 he decided on Lindworth... Early in 1932 he bought it for £1,000...’

In the same letter to Mrs Andrews, the artist wrote of T01207: ‘The days I spent painting the boat house picture were mainly rainy days and “a rainy day” would have been a sub title for it, as a matter of fact the title of a very good picture by Fred Walker was “a rainy day at Cookham” so your mother’s hope that you would put her present by for a rainy day would not be entirely ignored...’

Turk’s boat house and yard feature prominently in at least three other paintings by Stanley Spencer. ‘Swan Upping at Cookham’, 1914–19 is in the Tate Gallery (T00525). ‘View from Cookham Bridge’, 1936 (repr. Elizabeth Rothenstein, Stanley Spencer, 1945, pl.52) is principally a view of the boat house and yard. T01207 is very-close to ‘Boatbuilder’s Yard, Cookham’ (33½ x 27½ in., coll. Manchester City Art Galleries). Although the foreground of this Manchester composition is occupied prominently by a tank of goldfish and a rock garden against a low wall, the upper part of the canvas represents, like T01207, Turk’s boat yard, with boats in the centre, oars and weatherboarding to the right and the river beyond. The viewpoint is higher, but only a few yards away from that of T01207. Although the Manchester picture has been dated 1936 since its purchase in that year (through Arthur Tooth and Sons, who confirm that most works by Spencer sold by them at that date came freshly painted from the artist), the two pictures are also similar in technique.

Published in The Tate Gallery Report 1970–1972, London 1972.


  • Tate Etc

    MicroTate 34

    Edward Platt , Sasha Devas , Elain Harwood and Wilhelm Sasnal

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