Object of the Week: Stanley Spencer's painting pram

By Richard Moss | 22 June 2016

Object of the Week: Stanley Spencer's pram at the Stanley Spencer Gallery, Cookham

a  photo of an old pram in a gallery
Stanley Spencer's pram at the Stanley Spencer Gallery Cookham© Photo Richard Moss
In a quiet corner on the mezzanine of the Stanley Spencer Gallery in Cookham sits an unusual object that at first glance seems incongruous amidst the glowing paintings of an English visionary.  

Stanley Spencer’s pram, which he used to transport his easel, paints, brushes and other essential accoutrements around his beloved Cookham, is battered and rather odd looking, but it was an essential tool in the success of many of his later paintings.

Spencer returned to the Berkshire village in 1949 and lived in a modest house on Cookham Rise until just before his death in 1959, and the eccentric looking old pram with a big old umbrella pushed into its folds was a practical if comical-looking means of getting him to Cookham’s gardens, meadows and riverside locations.

a black and white photo of a Stanley Spencer pushing an old pram through rainy streets
Stanely Spencer in Cookham with his pram © Stanley Spencer Gallery
He must have cut a strange sight making his way through his beloved village with an old junk shop pram that was outdated even by the standards of 1950s. But by this time in his career his fame meant he was a familiar local site, and his famous eccentricity – natural and cultivated in equal measure – was well-known to all who lived in the village.

The handwritten sign that rests in the tatty old pram, firmly yet politely asking visitors to “avoid distracting his attention from the work”, may reference Spencer’s painting The Angel (1953) or any other number of works set in the churchyard at Cookham.

The pram undoubtedly accompanied him on many of his painting and sketching expeditions to the gardens, meadows and riverside locations of Spencer’s 'village in heaven' and is one of many treasures offering a delightful glimpse into Spencer’s world at the Stanley Spencer Gallery.

  • Visit the Stanley Spencer Gallery online at www.stanleyspencer.org.uk The current exhibition is Stanley Spencer, Visionary Painter of the Natural World showing until October 31 2016.
a hand drawn sign saying "As he is anxious to finish his painting of the churchyard Mr Stanley Spencer would be grateful if visitors would kindly avoid distracting his attention from the work."
The polite but firm sign in the pram© Photo Richard Moss
a photo of a man with an easel and umbrella showing a woman a painting
Stanley Spencer allows a Cookham resident to share the work in progress© Courtesy Stanley Spencer Gallery
What do you think? Leave a comment below.

More on Stanley Spencer:

The year of Stanley Spencer: Galleries celebrate the life and works of an English genius 

Lost Stanley Spencer sketchbook found by The Hepworth Wakefield during research for summer exhibition

Unity Spencer's doll delights - and deepens the mystery of Stanley Spencer painting

Get intimate with Stanley Spencer's Heaven in a Hell of War at Pallant House Gallery

Compton Verney reveals the overlooked gardens of painting great Stanley Spencer

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