Art Theory Criticism History Motion Stasis

Rare Work that Sheds Fascinating Light on British Delegation to China in 1954 to Be Shown at Sotheby’s

March 29, 2011


In 1954, British artist Stanley Spencer traveled to China as part of a cultural delegation. The works he painted then are part of a valuable 20th-century British art sale in Hong Kong, April 1-6, 2011.


This topic doesn’t fall into the rubric of postmodernism. Spencer’s art is painted in a representational way that indicates a notion of progress in personal and institutional knowledge, optimism for his experience, rational portrayal of his subjects, and a search for a harmonious and absolute knowledge in his understanding of his subject and the society and political environment in which it existed. From reports sited in the article, it can be inferred that Spencer also was a believer in the idea that being true to oneself and others was a strong foundation for gaining knowledge.  One report is of how Spencer charmingly answered then Premier of the People’s Republic of China, Zhou En-lai’s questions about the British’s experience in China. Spencer answered by relating his home to China in homey and comfortable ways.  It is also related that during the trip Spencer found time to develop a respectful relationship with Chinese painter, Qi Baishi, honoring the artist with the purchase of several of his paintings.


These actions suggest that Spencer wasn’t concerned with the end of progress in any form. It is doubtful that Spencer was interested in the end of history or society since the most famous of his work from this trip, Ming Tomb’s deals favorably with the ancient art of China and it’s “rediscovery” in the modern world. Finally, from the article we can surmise that Spencer cared little of the relationship of reality to “signs,” or signifiers. Spencer related his life directly to Zhou En-lai’s in order to form a cross-cultural relationship built on common experiences. Spencer’s understanding of their lives was built on the reality in which he found himself.


April 5, 2011 - Posted by | Uncategorized

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