Portrait of J. Louis Behrend

by Stanley Spencer

£5,000

Stanley Spencer made portrait drawings of his friends and patrons for much of his life, often head and shoulder views, as if they were seated before him. He enjoyed this activity, he said, because of his ‘exquisite appreciation of heads’.

This work, Portrait of J. Louis Behrend, is a prime example of his keen attention to detail, as he focuses on his face, with his torso fading into the paper. Also, his gaze directly confronts the viewer, yet is soft. Spencer’s light use of pencil captures his subject’s gentle demeanour.

MEDIUM: Pencil on paper
DIMENSIONS: (unframed) 8.3 x 7.0 ins/ 21.1 x 17.8 cm

Catalogue No: 5531 Categories: , Tags: ,

Stanley Spencer made portrait drawings of his friends and patrons for much of his life, often head and shoulder views, as if they were seated before him. He enjoyed this activity, he said, because of his ‘exquisite appreciation of heads’. Most of these would reveal Spencer’s creative process as he would often paint oils later on from the same viewpoint, demonstrating both the strength of Spencer’s visual memory and also how he could treat subjects in a similar way despite considerable gaps of time.

This work, Portrait of J. Louis Behrend, is a prime example of his keen attention to detail, as he focuses on his face, with his torso fading into the paper. Also, his gaze directly confronts the viewer, yet is soft. Spencer’s light use of pencil captures his subject’s gentle demeanour.

The subject, John Louis Behrend (1881-1972) along with his wife Mary were among Spencer’s principal patrons. They first became acquainted with the artist at a party hosted by the Bloomsbury socialite Lady Ottoline Morrell in 1914 and went on to buy many of Spencer’s key pieces including, Mending Cowls and Swan Upping. They went on to accumulate what became the largest collection of Spencer’s pictures.

George Behrend, son of Louis Behrend;

Chris Dobosz, carer of George Behrend;

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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