Stanley Spencer painted Thatched Cottages, Durweston during the summer of 1920. This was part of a painting expedition the artist undertook with his younger brother, Gilbert, while staying at the home of fellow artist Henry Lamb in nearby Stourpaine, Dorset. It was to be a productive period for Spencer, who produced nine landscapes during his visit, each painted from life. In their role as Official War Artists, both Spencer and Lamb were still occupied with major wartime commissions, and these landscapes seem to have provided some relief and a different creative outlet.
The nine oil paintings that Spencer completed that summer differed from one another in both subject and technique – this was a period of experimentation during which “Spencer was also forced to reconsider his attitude towards landscape work and its place in his career” The sensitively textured, accomplished paintwork combined with the beautiful tonal palette marks Thatched Cottages out as one of Spencer’s most successful early landscapes.
Mary Behrend purchased three of Spencer’s Durweston landscapes, having seen them drying in Henry Lamb’s cottage in Stourpaine, whilst Sir William Rothenstein and Mrs Harold Goring purchased one apiece. This particular painting, however, has been in the possession of the Bone family for various generations. Sir Muirhead Bone (1876-1953) was a strong early supporter of Stanley Spencer’s work. Bone was an artist himself, but also acted as an agent in commissioning work and encouraging young artists such as Spencer. Spencer stayed with Bone and his family in Steep, Hampshire, from July – December, 2021, and was paid the sum of £120 to teach Muirhead’s son, Stephen Bone (1904- 1958), to paint. While there, produced three drawings of music classes taking place in the Lupton Hall at Bedales, intended as part of a decorative scheme for the school.
A similar painting by Gilbert Spencer (1892-1979) entitled Cottages at Durweston, Dorset can be found in the collection of the Yale Center for British Art.