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22 May 1859, Edinburgh M.D., Kt, D.L., LL.D., Sportsman, Writer, Poet, Politician, Justicer, Spiritualist Crowborough, 7 July 1930

Woman Spirit Painter

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Woman Spirit Painter is a letter written by Arthur Conan Doyle published in the Daily Mail on 16 december 1919.



Editions

  • in Daily Mail (16 december 1919 [UK]) as Woman "Spirit" Painter
  • in The Vancouver World (22 january 1920 [CA]) as Woman Spirit Painter Does Marvellous Work


Woman "Spirit" Painter (Daily Mail)

Daily Mail (16 december 1919, p. 7)

Finest Head of Christ Yet Conceived.

Sir A. Conan Doyle and Mrs. Spencer.

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, who in his lectures on spiritualism has repeatedly declared that he has been in communication with the spirit of his son, writes a remarkable letter to The Daily Mail describing a "most marvellous" head of Christ which, he says, was drawn in a few hours by a woman who, normally, has power of artistic expression.

Sir Arthur affirms that the picture, now exhibited at the Walker Gallery, New Bond-street, W., is "the finest head of the Founder of Christianity that has ever been conceived." The work was executed by Mrs. Spencer, daughter-in-law of Viscountess Churchill.

From Sir A. Conan Doyle

Sir, — In the early days of this movement it was foretold by Mrs. de Morgan and others that the line of advance would be from the crude material phenomena, common in these days to the finer and more intellectual proofs which the human race would become more fitted to receive. This prophecy has, in the course of the last fifty years, been amply justified. The spirit rap, levitations, and even materialisations have become far less common. The evidence in these directions has been given, and this stage appears to be closing down. On the other hand, we have never before had such an outburst of the finer phases of spirit intervention, of spirit photography, of inspirational addresses, writings, and paintings, and very especially of that clairvoyance or "discerning of spirits" which Saint Paul counted among the most valuable of spiritual gifts.

A "Material Age."

In writing this letter my object was, however, to point out some of the more intellectual proofs of spirit intervention which may appeal to those minds which recoil from grosser manifestations, only justified by the necessities of the material age in which we live. Of written inspiration much might be said, for no philosophy that has appeared has such a literature as has grown round spiritualism. To those who imagine that the inspirational messages are of small intellectual value I would name only two recent books: Claude's Second Book (Methuen) and Letters from the Other Side (Watkins), which contain the very essence of spiritual knowledge, and, incidentally, a good deal of prophesy, in the case of the latter book, which has been literally fulfilled since the time the messages were taken. If those two books are not indeed inspired, then what are we to think of the transcendent intellectual qualities of those two ladies whose hands were used to produce the script?

It is, however, to inspirational painting which I would especially refer, because when a masterpiece is produced by one who has no technical skill, and when it is exposed for all to behold, the most sceptical must admit that there is something there beyond their ken. Some publicity has been given recently to the symbolic drawings of Mr. Charles Horsfall, and after inspecting them I am certainly of opinion that they are indeed truly inspirational in their origin and profound in their meaning.

The "Inner Soul."

I could, however, appreciate the position of those who have no turn for mysticism and who do not understand that there are some subjects so complex that they cannot be treated in a pictorial but only in a diagrammatic fashion.

To these people I would recommend an inspection of the head of Christ now exhibited at the Walker Gallery in New Bond street. This picture is, in my opinion, the very finest head of the Founder of Christianity that has ever been conceived, and I can well understand the action of a great painter in Paris who, when he saw the companion full-face drawing, fell instantly upon his knees.

It is, indeed, a most marvellous production, with all that inner soul which is so lacking in the old masters, whose Christs and Virgins appear to me to be very often the quintessence of materialism and vulgarity.

Yet this wonderful work was done in a few hours by a lady who, as I am assured by her family, has no power of artistic expression when in her normal condition. It is a supreme example of the working of spiritual intelligence through a material mortal frame.

Arthur Conan Doyle.
Windlesham, Crowborough, Sussex, Dec. 13.






Woman Spirit Painter Does Marvellous Work (The Vancouver World)

The Vancouver World (22 january 1920)

Daughter of Former Premier of British Columbia Amazes Conan Doyle by Strange Ability.

London, Jan. 22. — Sir Arthur Conan Doyle writes a remarkable letter to The Daily Mail describing a "most marvellous" head of Christ which, he says, was drawn in a few hours by a woman who, normally, has no power of artistic expression.

Sir Arthur affirms that the picture, now exhibited at the Walker Gallery, New Bond Street, W., is "the finest head of the Founder of Christianity that has ever been conceived." The work was executed by Mrs. Spencer, daughter-in-law of Viscountess Churchill.

Mrs. Spencer, then the widow of Capt. Stanley Venn Ellis, R.N., married the Hon. Victor Alexander Spencer in 1916. She is the daughter of the Hon. Robert Beaven, formerly premier of British Columbia.

Remarkable Power.

The story of Mrs. Spencer came to discover her remarkable painting power, as told by her mother-in-law is like a page from Hans Andersen. "I cannot explain it," she said, "except to express my belief that Mrs. Spencer has strong psychic power. It was just before the war that she made the discovery. She felt the desire to paint — to do something to brighten the lives of people — and picked up her little daughter's crayons.

"Although she had never received instruction in drawing or painting, she drew a perfect head of Christ on a piece of paper. She was so impressed by what she had done, and felt so strongly that she could do it again, that she procured all the necessary accessories for painting. There is nothing in the nature of 'control' in her work.

"I have watched her for hours at a time, and all the time she is painting she can carry on an ordinary conversation. The first head of Christ she did in oils was seen by a French expert, who asked: 'Where was it picked up?' 'I have not,' he said, seen brushwork like this since the old masters.' He could hardly believe that it was the work of Mrs. Spencer, and wanted to give £150 for the painting just as it stood, unmounted and unframed.

Painted Upside Down.

"The remarkable thing about this head was that it was done upside down. Mrs. Spencer worked at it solidly for about three hours, and, when she had finished, wondered what on earth she had done; it was only on turning it upside down that a perfect head of Christ appeared. Mrs. Spencer rubs in the backgrounds with her hand, and it was only recently we learned that this is how the old masters used to do it.

"I can only explain it by saying that I think that with her intense desire to help aid is given her; there is nothing in the nature of control or trance or anything like that."

The oil painting at the Walker Galleries, which she has named "The Light," was painted by Mrs. Spencer at her home in Scotland, while the pastel was done in an ordinary room in London.

Conan Doyle's Letter

This is the letter written to the Daily Mail:

Sir, — In the early days of this movement it was foretold by Mrs. de Morgan and others that the line of advance would be from the crude material phenomena, common in these days to the finer and more intellectual proofs which the human race would become more fitted to receive. This prophecy has, in the course of the last fifty years, been amply justified. The spirit rap, levitations, and even materialisations have become far less common. The evidence in these directions has been given, and this stage appears to be closing down. On the other hand, we have never before had such an outburst of the finer phases of spirit intervention, of spirit photography, of inspirational addresses, writings, and paintings, and very especially of that clairvoyance or "discerning of spirits" which Saint Paul counted among the most valuable of spiritual gifts.

A "Material Age."

In writing this letter my object was, however, to point out some of the more intellectual proofs of spirit intervention which may appeal to those minds which recoil from grosser manifestations, only justified by the necessities of the material age in which we live. Of written inspiration much might be said, for no philosophy that has appeared has such a literature as has grown round spiritualism. To those who imagine that the inspirational messages are of small intellectual value I would name only two recent books: "Claude's Second Book" (Methuen) and "Letters from the Other Side" (Watkins), which contain the very essence of spiritual knowledge, and, incidentally, a good deal of prophesy, in the case of the latter book, which has been literally fulfilled since the time the messages were taken. If those two books are not indeed inspired, then what are we to think of the transcendent intellectual qualities of those two ladies whose hands were used to produce the script?

It is, however, to inspirational painting which I would especially refer, because when a masterpiece is produced by one who has no technical skill, and when it is exposed for all to behold, the most sceptical must admit that there is something there beyond their ken. Some publicity has been given recently to the symbolic drawings of Mr. Charles Horsfall, and after inspecting them I am certainly of opinion that they are indeed truly inspirational in their origin and profound in their meaning.

The "Inner Soul."

I could, however, appreciate the position of those who have no turn for mysticism and who do not understand that there are some subjects so complex that they cannot be treated in a pictorial but only in a diagrammatic fashion.

To these people I would recommend an inspection of the head of Christ now exhibited at the Walker Gallery in New Bond street. This picture is, in my opinion, the very finest head of the Founder of Christianity that has ever been conceived, and I can well understand the action of a great painter in Paris who, when he saw the companion full-face drawing, fell instantly upon his knees.

It is, indeed, a most marvellous production, with all that inner soul which is so lacking in the old masters, whose Christs and Virgins appear to me to be very often the quintessence of materialism and vulgarity.

Yet this wonderful work was done in a few hours by a lady who, as I am assured by her family, has no power of artistic expression when in her normal condition. It is a supreme example of the working of spiritual intelligence through a material mortal frame.

Arthur Conan Doyle.
Windlesham, Crowborough, Sussex.








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