The Enchantment of Stanley Spencer



In the early 1930s the artist Stanley Spencer committed himself to working on the never-achieved Church-House project. It was intended to reflect his understanding of God and religion as love, and, furthermore, of the sacred being fully integrated in secular times and places. The first painting he finished for the project was Villagers and Saints (1933), now in the collection of the University of Hull. This paper uses Villagers and Saints as a way into a reading of Spencer's work, drawing on insights from Charles Taylor's A Secular Age to explore how Spencer sacramentalises the material world. The first part of the paper contextualises Villagers and Saints, and the second part identifies its vision with what appears to have been a conversion experience, discussed by Spencer in his public writing.