Stanley only rarely produced paintings which directly reflected experiences. Most were done in the years following his return from the Great War and suggest the loss of vision of which he continually complained afterwards. They include pictures such as The Bridge (1920) which he then wanted to destroy, Unveiling Cookham War Memorial (1922) with which he later expressed dissatisfaction, or The Betrayal (1923) and The Crucifixion (1921) which can be interpreted as influenced by his fear of exposing the 'purity' of his male creativity to the functional demands of female sexuality.
However, once he had acomplished his redemptive masterpieces of the later 1920s - The Cookham Resurrection and The Burghclere Chapel decoration - he felt he had achieved resolution of his earlier bewilderments and was back on course. Thereafter, he only occasionally turned an image directly into a painting, usually when he was under strong emotional stress or frustrated creativity. His series on Christ in the Wilderness, begun in 1938, for example, may stem from his disillusion about the break-up of the triangular marriage scheme he had so badly wanted to succeed.
Frustrated creativity could make Stanley tense and explosive, especially when finding his motives misunderstood. Although he would be resigned if a viewer genuinely did not understand a painting, he would be infuriated when such misapprehension came from an informed commentator, or from someone he trusted and who should have known better. Examples are The Daughters of Jerusalem and Christ Delivered to the People, painted in the 1950-51 period, when he was under stress as a result of the premature death of his first wife Hilda, and found himself facing not only lack of sympathy from his second wife Patricia but also unaccountable academic and legal attack from Sir Alfred Munnings, then President of the Royal Academy, who had no regard for his 'spiritual' or metaphysical outlook.
A gentler example is The Sabbath
Breakers of 1952 which appears to be a wry dig at the
of the Cookham Lord’s Day Observance
Society who disapproved of his painting on a Sunday. It shows Christ
gathering ears of corn as they pass along the Bridle Path,
one of his favourite landscapes.
But the best-known of these works is
undoubtedly his terrifying The Crucifixion
of 1958 commissioned by Jack Martineau
for Aldenham School, the school near Harrow run by the
Brewers for their sons. The generous commission from
a close friend and patron was offered at a
when Stanley was in no financial position to turn down such work.
He was not teetotal, but was socially careful in his attitude to drink, and strongly antipathetic to its excessive promotion which
he felt the brewers condoned (his
brother Horace had died penniless from
alcoholism in 1941.) In accepting
the commission Stanley refused to deny his views or to make
in the name of patronage. When he presented his drawing
of the project for approval to the school authorities, they were taken
generously admitted that
boys can stand it. They had to. At the unveiling ceremony, he
told them publicly from the school platform that they and their parents
were still in danger of crucifying