The artist Daphne Charlton (1909-1991) was to play an important role in the emotional life of Stanley Spencer. Considerably taller than Spencer, and eighteen years his junior, they had an affair in which she did much to care for him and restore his spirits after his divorce and disastrous second marriage. In June 1939 he was living alone in London when he went to stay with Daphne and George Charlton in Hampstead and then accompanied them on a painting holiday to Leonard Stanley, Gloucestershire. They stayed on after the outbreak of the Second World War. George was a teacher of painting and drawing at the Slade School of Art (and Daphne’s former tutor). From October, he spent several days a week in Oxford to which the Slade had been evacuated, and Stanley and Daphne had freedom for their affair. In May 1940 Spencer went to Port Glasgow to start work as an Official War Artist. Although he returned to Leonard Stanley from time to time, he was not to live there again, and the affair was largely over. Stanley and Daphne, however, remained in touch for the rest of his life. She even talked of an unrealised plan for her to keep house for him in Cookham.
Possessed of a confident, high-spirited personality, Daphne was portrayed by a number of artists, including herself and her husband George. Stanley Spencer painted two portraits of her: the striking Daphne 1940 (Tate) in which she wears a chic black hat purchased by the artist in New Bond Street and the later more sober Daphne Charlton (Abbot Hall Art Gallery, Kendal). In both works, she looks directly at the viewer, whereas in this delightfully informal drawing, she is captured in a moment of quiet introspection, leaning forward on to her left hand and gazing sideways. Her wedding ring is clearly visible. There is a tender sympathy between artist and sitter.
Daphne also featured prominently in Spencer’s Scrapbook drawings, made in a series of children’s scrapbooks he purchased during their affair. He kept the frequently autobiographical compositions for the rest of his life, making a number of paintings from them. Daphne featured in a group of paintings by Spencer (which he referred to as his ‘Daphne series’), including eight derived from the Scrapbook drawings. They were intended by Spencer for a never-to-be-built Church-House, a hoped-for successor to his Sandham Memorial Chapel at Burghclere. Amongst other things, the Church-House was to contain chapels dedicated to five women in his life, including his ‘Daphne Memorial’.
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