Lot 12
  • 12

Sir Stanley Spencer R.A.

180,000 - 250,000 GBP
bidding is closed


  • Sir Stanley Spencer R.A.
  • Greenhouse Interior
  • oil on canvas
  • 55 by 65.5cm.; 21¾ by 25¾in.
  • Executed circa 1935.


Arthur Tooth & Sons, London, where acquired by Miss Margaret Pilkington, 1936, by whom gifted as a silver wedding anniversary present to the parents of the present owners


Leeds, Temple Newsam House, Leeds City Art Gallery, Paintings and Drawings by Stanley Spencer, 1947, cat. no.18 (as Greenhouse);
Manchester, Manchester City Art Gallery, Exhibition of Works of Art from Private Collections in the North West and North Wales, 21st September - 30th October 1960, cat. no.210.


Keith Bell, Stanley Spencer, A Complete Catalogue of the Paintings, Phaidon Press Ltd, London, 1992, cat. no.181.


The following condition report has been prepared by Hamish Dewar, 13 & 14 Mason's Yard, Duke St, St James's, London, SW1Y 2BU. UNCONDITIONAL AND WITHOUT PREJUDICE Structural condition The canvas is unlined and is inscribed with a canvas-maker's stamp on the reverse and has what would certainly appear to be the original keyed wooden stretcher. The structural condition is sound and secure. Paint surface The paint surface has a very dry and uneven appearance and would undoubtedly benefit considerably from cleaning and a thin matt varnish. This should give far greater depth to paint surface and significantly improve the overall appearance. No retouchings are visible under ultra-violet light. Summary The painting would therefore appear to be in excellent and stable condition with no evidence of any intervention in the past. Housed in a thick, gilt and painted wooden frame. Please telephone the department on +44 (0) 207 293 6424 if you have any questions regarding the present work.
"This lot is offered for sale subject to Sotheby's Conditions of Business, which are available on request and printed in Sotheby's sale catalogues. The independent reports contained in this document are provided for prospective bidders' information only and without warranty by Sotheby's or the Seller."

Catalogue Note

Painted around 1935, Greenhouse Interior captures a particularly verdant and exotically coloured corner of an English greenhouse, replete with Victorian chequerboard tiled floor. Surrounded by luxuriant foliage, a branch of fuchsias in full bloom emerges into the foreground. Spencer clearly took great care and delight in drawing out the contrasting white and magenta petals. Coincidentally, there is another fuschia with contrasting white and lilac petals that is known as the 'Margaret Pilkington'. Very aptly, the painting entered the collection of another Margaret Pilkington, artist and patron, soon after it was painted.  

It is not known when Spencer and Pilkington first met but Stanley had graduated from the Slade just a year before Margaret attended in 1913 and the hallways would still have been filled with chatter of the successes of previous graduates. The two most certainly knew each other by 1953 when Spencer was commissioned by the Friends of the Whitworth Art gallery to draw Margaret’s portrait and he went to stay with her several times at Firwood in Alderley Edge.
It was his dealer, Dudley Tooth who had first encouraged him to produce still life and landscape work in the mid 1930s for which he found a ready market through his London Gallery. Although this body of work can appear at first to be at completely opposite ends of the spectrum to the more challenging figurative compositions of the period such as Love among the Nations (1935, Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge) and Nude, Portrait of Patricia Preece (1935, Ferens Art Gallery, Hull), rather than being opposites, they are the embodiment of two intertwined facets of Spencer’s life.

Although Spencer had vaguely known Patricia Preece for some time, it was only after he moved back to his home town of Cookham with his wife Hilda in 1931 that a relationship between the two began to develop. Perhaps accentuated by difficulties in his marriage, Stanley became infatuated with Patricia. Through the early years of the decade, Spencer wrestled with the situation, attempting to steer a path that would allow him to keep both women, a path that could never succeed. Hilda was initially tolerant of Spencer’s situation but remained firm, whilst Patricia became more and more demanding of his time and resources, and Spencer found himself in dire financial straits on a number of occasions. As such, Tooth’s ability to easily find buyers for his still life and landscape work proved to be critical at the time. Although Spencer sometimes resented this pressure, feeling that it took him away from his figurative paintings, he found that his periods of still life and landscape painting removed him from his domestic troubles and, as his friend Sir John Rothenstein noted, gave ‘him hours of peaceful respite from the fearful effort involved in the production of large pictures, packed with incident and deeply felt; they refresh his vision by constantly renewing his intimate contacts with nature; and they charge his fabulous memory.'