Details & Cataloguing

Modern & Post-War British Art


Sir Stanley Spencer, R.A.


Acquired directly from the Artist by Gerard Shiel
Arthur Tooth and Sons, London, 1973
Mrs P. Colbeck
Her sale, Sotheby's London, 10th June 1981, lot 201
Sale, Sotheby's London, 13th November 1985, lot 308a, where acquired by the present owners


Cookham, Church and Vicarage, Stanley Spencer Exhibition, May 1958, cat. no.21, where lent by Gerard Shiel (as Roses);
Plymouth, Plymouth, City Museum and Art Gallery, Sir Stanley Spencer CBE RA, 1963, cat. no. 42, where lent by Gerard Shiel (as Roses);
London, Arthur Tooth and Sons, Recent Acquisitions of XXth Century British Painting, October 1973, cat. no.18.


Keith Bell, Stanley Spencer, A Complete Catalogue of the Paintings, Phaidon Press Ltd, London, 1992, cat. no.377, illustrated p.497.

Catalogue Note

Perhaps best known for his figurative paintings of Biblical subjects set in his home town of Cookham, Berkshire, Spencer in the 1930s turned his attention to landscapes and still lives, during a period of personal upheaval. Spencer found himself in financial trouble following his divorce from his first wife Hilda Carline, and a disastrous relationship with Patricia Preece, and it was his long term dealer Dudley Tooth who first encouraged him to produce still life and landscape work, for which he found a ready market through his London Gallery. 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'. Although this body of work can appear at first to be at completely opposite ends of the spectrum to the more challenging figurative compositions, rather than being opposites, they are the embodiment of two intertwined facets of Spencer's life.

The following has been prepared by Carolyn Leder, and we are grateful to her for her kind assistance with the cataloguing and this note for the present work:

Various comments in Spencer’s writings reveal him to be surprisingly knowledgeable as to the names and characteristics of flowers and plants, which played an important role in his oeuvre.

His acute sense of observation informs this still-life of roses painted on a visit to his brother Harold, who lived in Merville Garden Village, Whitehouse, Northern Ireland. A professional violinist, Harold was one of two Spencer siblings who became musicians. Stanley Spencer painted thirteen works on his visits to Harold. These include a self-portrait, some landscapes and garden scenes, as well as four striking portraits of his niece, Harold’s daughter Daphne.

This was one of the pictures selected by the artist for his signally successful exhibition in Cookham Church and Vicarage in 1958. It hung in the Vicarage and as he explained in the catalogue, it was ‘painted while staying in Northern Ireland with my brother, Harold.’ The colours of the roses combine with the swirling patterns on the jug and the detailed wood graining to make it an excellent example of Spencer’s handling of still-life.

The picture was purchased from Spencer by his friend and patron, Gerard Shiel, who lived in Englefield House, Cookham. He formed a collection of Spencer’s work which included five commissioned paintings of his house and garden. The men established another bond through their memories of service in Macedonia during the First World War, in which Shiel was a major in the Machine Gun Corps and, like the artist’s brother Sydney, was awarded the MC. Artist and patron - who became firm friends - spent many hours reminiscing about Macedonia. Gerard Shiel was later a Founder Member and Chairman of the Trustees of the Stanley Spencer Gallery.

Spencer chose roses again for a still life he painted for the Queen Mother on his knighthood in 1959. He even carried the painting to his investiture at Buckingham Palace but found that gifts were not allowed, so he gave the painting instead to the owner of the Torquil café in Cookham, who promptly renamed her café The Two Roses.

Modern & Post-War British Art