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Swan Upping at Cookham

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Stanley Spencer (1891-1959)

‘Swan upping’, when the swans are marked, is an annual ritual on the Thames. Spencer said this work was inspired while he was in church and could hear people on the river outside. He explained: ‘the village seemed as much a part of the atmosphere prevalent in the church as the most holy part of the church.’ This fusion of the everyday and the divine was typical of his attitude to his Christian faith.

The completion of this work was delayed by Spencer’s involvement in the First World War. He had trouble when he returned to it, as he said ‘it is not proper or sensible to expect to paint after such experience’.
(Tate Modern)
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