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Gallery gears up for WWI Spencer exhibit
STAFF have been working tirelessly to get a new exhibition commemorating the centenary of the First World War ready for display at the Stanley Spencer Gallery in Cookham this week.
'Paradise Regained. Spencer in the Aftermath of the First World War' aims to treat visitors to a glimpse at the impact the conflict had on the renowned Cookham artist and his work.
Spencer had already painted his most acclaimed works of art before the war, but reluctantly joined the effort in 1915.
The 5ft 2 ins tall artist served first as an orderly at Beaufort Hospital in Bristol , after initially being deemed too short to serve on the front line. He would, however, eventually go on to serve on the front line in Macedonia.
Returning to Cookham after the war, Spencer gave up a war commission amid fears he had lost his own artistic vision.
The exhibition seeks to demonstrate how important Cookham once more became to him, as he again used the picturesque village as a source of inspiration, The artist himself said: "After the war I felt, on returning home, as if I were performing a miracle every time I beheld the familiar spots.”
The gallery, in Cookham High Street, has been preparing for the exhibition for around a year, with some of the works specially brought in for display on Monday this week.
Stuart Conlin, Chairman of the Trustees has been conducting hangs at the gallery for 15 years.
He said: "It is always a challenge to get everything to fall into place on the day. We normally take less than two days to install our exhibitions and open up the gallery to the public on day three.
“This is considerably less time than many larger organisations take, and maybe this is to do with the enthusiasm of volunteers. We work as a team of four or five volunteers throughout the day and try to use the time really effectively.”
He explained that the pictures arrive at the gallery in customised wooden crates, which are then stored until the works are returned to their owners.
Several loans from private collectors have been picked up by the movers. After the pictures are hung, lighting levels are adjusted to show off the works at their best – all the while making sure the paintings are not exposed to too much brightness.
The process of the hang actually begins around a year before the pictures are finally put up, to allow time for communicating and negotiation with possible lenders, such as the Tate Gallery in London.
Stuart said, "We value greatly both their (Tate) generosity to us as well as the opportunity to learn from their best practice."
Brian Newson, professional conservator, checks the condition of the loaned paintings with a Tate representative as they arrive at the gallery. Together they carefully note any blemishes to the canvases or damage to the frames - a process repeated at the end of the exhibition.
Aside from the main display, visitors to the gallery can also enjoy viewing a selection of the famed artist’s other work, including a complete set of letters Spencer wrote to his friend, Desmond Chute, during the First World War.
The exhibition runs from April 2 to November 2, from 10:30am- 5:30pm, seven days a week.
Further details can be found at www.stanleyspencer.org.uk
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