Portrait of Daphne, 1939-1943

by Stanley Spencer


DIMENSIONS: (unframed)16.0 x 12.0 in./40.6 x 30.5 cm
MEDIUM: Oil on canvas

Daphne was the subject of a number of paintings and drawings by Spencer, and for works such as this she would pose daily for two to three weeks. It is known that Spencer would often reduce Daphne to tears in order for her to express some emotion in her face. For a self-confident, self-assured and remarkably independent woman, this was no mean feat, and Daphne remarked that no-one else would be capable of it, stating, “I don’t know how, he had the power”.

Catalogue No: 5347 Categories: ,

This painting depicts Daphne Charlton, a lively source of inspiration to Spencer. After his failed and passionless second marriage to Patricia, Daphne became a source of vigor and spontaneity for Spencer. He would frequently draw her going about everyday tasks upon his numerous visits to her and her husband’s marital home in Hampstead. It was on a painting holiday in rural Gloucestershire that their affair began, lasting from 1939 until after the outbreak of the Second World War in 1941.  Daphne was a very dominant, intelligent character who was notably taller than Spencer, despite the fact that in many of his drawings of her he made them the same height.

Interestingly Daphne’s husband, George Charlton, and Spencer had known each other for many years, and got on with one another very well. Two of Spencer’s most revered portraits of Daphne, The Woolshop, and Daphne both hang today in London’s Tate Britain.

Private Collection, United Kingdom

Stanley Spencer is an internationally regarded artist, best known, and loved, for his paintings that fuse everyday life with religious themes. His works concentrate on descriptive detail, incident and anecdote, which combined with his visionary and imaginative spiritualism make manifest the sacred in the everyday.

Spencer was a devout Christian, and his faith defined both the subjects of his paintings and their stylistic treatment. In large-scale paintings intended to recall religious frescos or altarpieces, Spencer depicted incidents inspired by the Bible. The scenes and events were however transferred to the familiar setting of Cookham, the Berkshire village on the banks of the River Thames in which he had lived since a child, and other close-knit communities such as the Clyde shipbuilders of Glasgow. Through his art he sought to discover the sacred in the daily lives of ordinary working British people and to show that all parts of life are touched by spirituality.

He studied at the Slade School of Art in London, before moving back to Cookham where he grew up and spent much of his life. While his style progressed and developed over the course of his prolific career, his attention to detail remained a constant and defines his large and varied body of work. In the last decade of his life, Spencer was awarded the CBE and elected Royal Academician.

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