Charles Spencelayh, RMS, HRBSA (British, 1865-1958)
Elevenses signed 'C.SPENCELAYH' (lower right) oil on canvas 50.8 x 61cm (20 x 24in).
The present lot displays all the hallmarks that made Charles Spencelayh one of the most successful genre painters of his age and one of the great recorders of the cluttered high Victorian interior. Spencelayh was born in Rochester in 1865. He began his artistic training at the South Kensington School (later renamed the Royal College of Art) and continued his studies in Paris before returning to England. He regularly submitted pictures to the Royal Academy, exhibiting over 30 works there between 1892-1958, winning the 'Picture of the Year' award for Why War in 1939. Spencelayh was also a favourite of Queen Mary, who commissioned him in 1924 to paint a miniature of King George V for her celebrated dolls house.
Aubrey Noakes describes Spencelayh as, 'faithful in his fashion to the painting styles of late Victorian days in which he steeped himself, he blithely ignored the passing trends, fads, and fashions of this century.'1 This rigid style remained popular with buyers and influential patrons and collectors, which included the wealthy Mancunian cotton merchant Mr Levy.
Elevenses is typical of Spencelayh's interiors, densely packed with bric-a-brac. He reflects the range of Victorian tastes depicting taxidermy and even a reproduction of William Holman Hunt's famous painting The Light of the World,, visible behind the man's chair. Such attention to detail meant Spencelayh has come to be regarded as a social historian and chronicler of the period, unearthing the suburban society of the day. In this respect he has often been linked to Charles Dickens who was also born in Rochester. In 1957, the year before the artist's death, a critic in The Manchester Guardian remarked of his paintings, 'Most of them depict old codgers - the obsolete slang rises unbidden - in junk-crammed interiors that will be of considerable interest to the social historian of the future'.2 Spencelayh himself recalled, 'As a lad I went into many poor homes in Rochester and Chatham. Today, I remember the arrangement of many of those little homes, and I put my memories into some of my pictures'. Spencelayh's obituary in The Times read, 'His work was full of the spirit, of 'The Old Curiosity Shop' in particular ... he had a natural sympathy for the kind of man who keeps one -an old bachelor in his conception'.
1 Aubrey Noakes, Charles Spencelayh and his paintings, Jupiter Books Ltd, London, 1978, p.13 2 Ibid, p.53