Bellrope Meadow, Cookham, Berkshire Stanley Spencer Buy Art Prints Now
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Tom Gurney BSc (Hons) is an art history expert with over 20 years experience
Published on June 19, 2020 / Updated on October 14, 2023
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Stanley Spencer famously loved his hometown of Cookham, equating it literally with heaven on earth, and in this simple floral scene, it is possible to see the attraction of the village, which lies to the north-easternmost corner of Berkshire, along the River Thames.

Called simply Bellrope Meadow, Cookham, Berkshire, this painting is oddly reminiscent of a Van Gogh, with the pale blue sky, bedecked with fluffy clouds, and the cypresses rising tall and dark in the middle of the background. It also has something of a hint of a floral still-life about it, albeit the flowers in question still growing in glorious profusion, rather than being picked and tamed by being placed in a vase and arranged just so. Closer inspection tells the viewer that the point of view is from the meadow, looking through the profusion of wildflower beauty into the chillier, tamed prettiness of a suburban garden. To the left field of view, crenellations imply that a grand house or small castle stand, while on the right-hand side a sturdy Victorian mansion – complete with glass observatory set into the roof, can be seen.

Between the two presumed residences, the above-mentioned cypresses draw the eye of the viewer to the middle of the canvas, where the glorious splendour of the small pinkish-purple flowers can be admired. They are instantly recognisable, though, not as domesticated flowers, delicate and in need of nurturing, but as hardy weeds: beautiful but unwanted, should they have dared to grow on the other side of the fence. But they are on the 'right' wild side of the fence – or close enough for it not to matter, and the artist's admiration for their profusion knows no bounds! Spencer has taken care to depict each flower in detail, not using artistic licence to create the effect of a mass of individual blossoms with a few strokes of the brush: each petal, stigma and leaf can be seen.

As simple as this scene is – certainly, it is beautiful, but is it really that special, one wonders – there is an extra element of poignancy in knowing that it really was a place dear to Stanley Spencer's heart. Following his death, untimely and early from cancer in 1959, he was cremated and his ashes placed in Cookham Churchyard, overlooking Bellrope Meadow – or such of it as remains after all this time. Sadly, the area is largely developed now, and Spencer would possibly be unhappy to see how little remains of his beloved vista. The painting, in oil on canvas can be found in Touchstones (a museum and art gallery) in Rochdale in the UK.