PORT GLASGOW CEMETERY

© Estate of Stanley Spencer 2005. All rights reserved, DACS.

PORT GLASGOW CEMETERY 1947

Sir Stanley Spencer (1891 – 1959)

Details

Dimension
50.8 X 76.2 CM
Media
OIL ON CANVAS
Accession number
P61

Summary

During the Second World War Spencer was appointed an official war artist in 1940 and the Committee commissioned a painting ‘of shipbuilding and a painting of an aerodrome’. In May 1940 Spencer travelled to Port Glasgow to work at Lithgows’s ship yards. He filled innumerable sketchbooks with plans for a complete series of paintings detailing the activities of the yard. A scaled-down version of the plan was eventually accepted by the committee and Spencer set to work. By 1943 his enthusiasm has begun to wane and he turned to a project closer to his heart: the celebration of Port Glasgow in a large painting some 15 metres across with Christ seated in Judgement on the Hill of Zion as figures rise from their graves. In the event such a huge work proved impractical, but Spencer endeavoured to retain part of his original scheme and The Resurrection, Port Glasgow, although much modified became the main section, whose central picture The Hill of Zion(collection of the Harris Museum and Art Gallery, Preston) was inspired by the shape of the hill on which Port Glasgow cemetery was sited. In a notebook Spencer recorded that due to a jazz band playing downstairs in the house where he was living, he went for a walk ‘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’. Beyond the cemetery can be seen the roof tops of nearby houses and the river Clyde.

Further reading
R H Wilenski, Stanley Spencer: Resurrection Paintings 1945-50, Faber, London 1951
Men of the Clyde: Stanley Spencer’s Vision of Port Glasgow, Scottish National Portrait Gallery, Edinburgh, 2000
Stanley ‘Love, desire, Faith’, Abbot Hall Art Gallery, Kendal 2002