‘THE HOLY BOX’
The Genesis of Stanley Spencer’s Sandham Memorial Chapel
Amanda Bradley and Paul Gough
with contributions by Carolyn Leder, Sarah Rutherford, and James Rothwell
Sir Stanley Spencer RA CBE worked at the Beaufort Military Hospital as a medical orderly during the First World War. He later served on the forgotten Macedonian Front with a field ambulance unit and an infantry regiment. He saw action, was traumatized and suffered acute bouts of malaria. Five years after the Armistice he started making numerous drawings recalling in great detail his war service. So impressed were two generous patrons, the Behrends, that they built a small chapel near Newbury to house a cycle of paintings. For five years Spencer toiled in the chapel. The resulting murals are quite extraordinary; they stand comparison with the great painted chapels of early Renaissance Italy. The Sandham Memorial Chapel ranks alongside the poetry of Wilfred Owen and Siegfried Sassoon, and Britten’s War Requiem, as one of the most moving monuments to 20th-century war.
This book draws extensively on archive material to tell the complicated and often intense relationship between the architect, the patron and the painter. Told by leading academics and curators it offers a rich insight into one of the greatest war memorials in northern Europe.
260 x 210mm