Swan Upping at Cookham
This painting shows an annual ritual on the Thames that continues to this day. Unmarked swans on the river belong to the British Crown. Those owned by two guilds, the Companies of Vintners and Dyers, are marked in a 'swan upping' ceremony every year. Here the swans are being brought ashore at Cookham. Spencer said he was inspired to make this work while he was in church and could hear people on the river outside: '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.
Credit: Presented by the Friends of the Tate Gallery 1962...
Text © Tate Britain, 2022