The Hepworth Wakefield, Yorkshire’s award-winning art gallery, has uncovered a sketchbook by the artist Stanley Spencer dating from 1907 containing the earliest known drawings and a short story by one of Britain’s greatest painters. Curator, Eleanor Clayton at the Wakefield gallery uncovered the previously un-published sketchbook by Stanley Spencer during a research visit to the Spencer family home in preparation for a major survey exhibition opening at The Hepworth Wakefield this summer.
Eleanor Clayton said: “I’m thrilled that the Spencer family have given us permission to include this sketchbook in our major exhibition this summer. I came across it whilst researching the show in the Spencer family home in London. The sketchbook, dated in Spencer’s own hand to February 10th 1907, was created when Spencer was just a teenager, making it the earliest known example of the artist’s work.”
She added: “It’s fascinating to see, even at the age of 15 ½, Spencer’s clear love of the Cookham landscape in detailed depictions of local flora and fauna, as well as his eccentric imagination, through fantastical images of guards riding on giant snails with the caption ‘patience is a virtue’, mermaids and characters from fairy tales.”
Stanley Spencer’s grandson, John Spencer said: “It’s a privilege to be working with The Hepworth Wakefield to realise this major survey exhibition of Stanley’s work during the 125th anniversary year of his birth. The exhibition, like the forthcoming new biography on Spencer, is inspired by Stanley’s own words, and features previously unseen writing by him. It’s a wonderful opportunity to share this unseen early work and short story as we celebrate the ‘Year of Spencer’.I know my grandfather would be as proud as I am to be able to share this celebration of his life and art.”
Stanley Spencer: Of Angels and Dirt will be on display at The Hepworth Wakefield, West Yorkshire from 24 June until 5 October.
It is the first major UK survey of Spencer’s work in 15 years and marks the 125th anniversary of his birth. The exhibition brings together more than 70 significant works spanning the artist’s entire 45 year career. It will include a number of Spencer’s rarely-seen self-portraits and important works from private collections that will be publicly exhibited for the first time in decades. The uncovered sketchbook featuring the earliest known works by Spencer will feature in the exhibition with a facsimile of the book alongside for visitors to leaf through.