The Ressurection At Cookham by Stanley Spencer (1926)

The Resurrection at Cookham by Stanley Spencer, Tate Gallery, London

“Quite suddenly I became aware that everything was full of special meaning, and this made everything holy. The instinct of Moses to take his shoes off when he saw the burning bush was very similar to my feelings. I saw many burning bushes in Cookham. I observed the sacred quality in the most unexpected quarters.”


We live in an age of special effects where live shows emphasize the dramatic with laser lights and fog machines, and where we expect computer generated images to compete for outrageousness.  This mentality has crept into our worship as well and today’s contemporary church service often resembles a Las Vegas stage show.  In counterpoint, our masterpiece today portrays the foretold resurrection of the dead in the setting of a quiet English countryside.  Rather than a thunderous extravaganza, we have leisurely repose.

As Terry Glaspey explains in 75 Masterpieces Every Christian Should Know :

The Resurrection at Cookham is a large painting—nine feet high and eighteen feet wide—and it is peopled not only with the Father and the Son but also with friends and family, the people he knew and loved. His first wife, Hilda, is the model for no less than three different figures. Numerous other friends also served as models. There is a flurry of activity as the dead rise out of their graves, but the tone of the picture remains serene. Some lounge about on top of the caskets they have just exited, some struggle out of their coffins or lift up the flowering sod to exit their earthen graves, and some intently study the writing on the tombstones in the churchyard. A group of “prophets”—Moses among them—stands along the wall of the church, rapt in thought, and Spencer painted himself in the bottom right corner, lying on two slabs of a broken tomb as though he is reclining in the pages of a great stone book. “Nobody is in a hurry in this painting,” said Spencer of this work. “Those men lying on top of the tombs I like very much, they gave me the feeling that the Resurrection is a peaceful occasion, and very positive. I like the happiness, that’s the main idea of the picture.”2 This is not a somber “Last Judgment” picture where the good and bad are being separated but an optimistic celebration of everlasting life. Christ sits under the church porch, surrounded by overhanging roses, holding three babies in his arms. The Father stands behind him, affectionately tousling his hair.

Has to the church gone too far in its use of stage effects during worship?


John 1: 1-5

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life; and the life was the light of men. And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not.

D I G  D E E P E R


Stanley Spencer

Stanley Spencer

(30 June 1891 – 14 December 1959) was an English painter. Shortly after leaving the Slade School of Art, Spencer became well known for his paintings depicting Biblical scenes occurring as if in Cookham, the small village beside the River Thames where he was born and spent much of his life. Spencer referred to Cookham as “a village in Heaven” and in his biblical scenes, fellow-villagers are shown as their Gospel counterparts. Spencer was skilled at organising multi-figure compositions such as in his large paintings for the Sandham Memorial Chapel and the Shipbuilding on the Clyde series, the former being a World War One memorial while the latter was a commission for the War Artists’ Advisory Committee during World War Two. As his career progressed Spencer often produced landscapes for commercial necessity and the intensity of his early visionary years diminished somewhat while elements of eccentricity came more to the fore. Although his compositions became more claustrophobic and his use of colour less vivid he maintained an attention to detail in his paintings akin to that of the Pre-Raphaelites.

Spencer’s works often express his fervent if unconventional Christian faith. This is especially evident in the scenes that he based in Cookham which show the compassion that he felt for his fellow residents and also his romantic and sexual obsessions. Spencer’s works originally provoked great shock and controversy. Nowadays, they still seem stylistic and experimental, while the nude works depicting his futile relationship with Patricia Preece, such as the Leg of mutton nude, foreshadow some of the much later works of Lucian Freud. Spencer’s early work is regarded as a synthesis of French Post-Impressionism, exemplified for instance by Paul Gauguin, plus early Italian painting typified by Giotto. In later life Spencer remained an independent artist and did not join any of the artistic movements of the period, although he did show three works at the Second Post-Impressionist Exhibition in 1912.

Sources & Resources

Cottrell, Stephen. Christ in the Wilderness. London: SPCK, 2012.

Harries, Richard. “Understanding Faith Through the Eyes of Stanley Spencer—The Rt Revd Lord Richard Harries.” Lecture at Gresham College, March 16, 2011. YouTube video. 1:00:05. Uploaded on August 26, 2011 by GreshamCollege. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PhHRFyrEteE.

Hauser, Kitty. Stanley Spencer. London: Tate Publishing, 2001.

MacCarthy, Fiona. Stanley Spencer: An English Vision. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1997.

Terry Glaspey, 75 Masterpieces Every Christian Should Know: The Fascinating Stories behind Great Works of Art, Literature, Music, and Film (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 2015).

 

Terry Glaspey

 

Terry Glaspey

I’m really looking forward to discussing my book, “75 Masterpieces Every Christian Should Know,” with the members of Literary Life Book Club. I can’t wait to hear your thoughts and perspectives on some of the art, music, and literature you’ll discover in the book. I’m interested in how it speaks to you in your life and the ways it inspires, challenges, or maybe even annoys you! I’ll try to share some “deleted scenes” stuff I had to leave out and will tell a few stories about what I experienced while doing the writing and research. Hope that many of you can join us as we look at he stories behind some truly wonderful art.

Let’s explore together!

Terry

Join the discussion with Terry on Facebook HERE

Terry Glaspey is a writer, an editor, a creative mentor, and someone who finds various forms of art—painting, films, novels, poetry, and music—to be some of the places where he most deeply connects with God.

He has a master’s degree in history from the University of Oregon (Go Ducks!), as well as undergraduate degrees emphasizing counseling and pastoral studies.

He has written over a dozen books, including 75 Masterpieces Every Christian Should Know:  Fascinating Stories Behind Great Art, Music, Literature, and Film, Not a Tame Lion: The Spiritual Legacy of C.S. Lewis, The Prayers of Jane Austen, 25 Keys to Life-Changing Prayer, Bible Basics for Everyone, and others.

Terry enjoys writing and speaking about a variety of topics including creativity and spirituality, the artistic heritage of the Christian faith, the writing of C.S. Lewis, and creative approaches to apologetics.

He serves on the board of directors of the Society to Explore and Record Church History and is listed in Who’s Who in America Terry has been the recipient of a number of awards, including a distinguished alumni award and the Advanced Speakers and Writers Editor of the Year award.

Terry has two daughters and lives in Eugene, Oregon.

Dig Deeper at TerryGlaspey.com

 

Some of the greatest painters, musicians, architects, writers, filmmakers, and poets have taken their inspiration from their faith and impacted millions of people with their stunning creations. Now readers can discover the stories behind seventy-five of these masterpieces and the artists who created them. From the art of the Roman catacombs to Rembrandt to Makoto Fujimura; from Gregorian Chant to Bach to U2; from John Bunyan and John Donne to Flannery O’Connor and Frederick Buechner; this book unveils the rich and varied artistic heritage left by believers who were masters at their craft.

Terry Glaspey, 75 Masterpieces Every Christian Should Know: The Fascinating Stories behind Great Works of Art, Literature, Music, and Film (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 2015).

Order it HERE today.