The only discernible example among Stanley's oeuvre of an observed landscape with figures is Southwold (Aberdeen Art Gallery) begun in August 1937 on the spot, but finished later in his Cookham studio.
Hilda Carline, later Stanley's wife, had served
during the Great War as a landgirl on a farm near Wangford in Suffolk, and had enjoyed visits to the nearby resort of Southwold. After the war she and her Carline family spent occasional holidays there, and Stanley, courting her, would sometimes join them. Hilda chose the church at Wangford for her wedding in 1925, and the couple honeymooned in a local cottage run by a Mrs.Lambert.

Although it sounds bizarre, Stanley encouraged the high-principled Hilda to divorce him in 1937 as part of a scheme he had devised
to have two 'wives' (discussed in the The Last Postscript on this web.) His intention was to make Patricia Preece his legal wife so that she could manage his affairs, and then, after their marriage, to persuade the unsuspecting Hilda to return to live with him in their family home in Cookham and resume her function as his other 'wife' and muse. He saw no reason why he should not have two wives, a not uncommon attitude among contemporary artists.

After the divorce, Hilda not unnaturally resisted Stanley's attempts at persuading her to become his 'secondary wife', but continued to be
sufficiently fond of him to listen to his cajoling. At one point she almost yielded. Her mother, the formidable widow Annie Carline, did her best to discourage her. Stanley however kept up the pressure, pursuing Hilda for the next nine months in his attempt to recover her.

Southwold was begun
on one of the early attempts in the summer of 1937 when, not long after the divorce, Stanley went there and took the same rooms in Mrs Lambert's cottage as on their honeymoon, pressing Hilda to come and join him. While he waited in hope for her arrival, he began this beach scene. But Hilda did not come, and after several days he gave up in disappointment and returned to Cookham with the uncompleted work.

Back in Cookham and setting up in his studio to finish the painting, S
tanley's feelings patently got the better of him. He felt compelled to turn what he had begun as a straightforward landscape into an imagined scene with figures, so that now both the landscape and the figures had eternal affinity. His figures can be interpreted as himself and Hilda in an idealized form as the couple in earnest conversation in the bottom left corner, while Mrs Carline under a parasol, with a duplicate Hilda and companion alongside her, sits on the other side of the line of drying towels. Does the line of towels imply the psychological barrier which existed between them after the divorce?

Whether in the painting Stanley is looking back to happier days when he and Hilda spent hours together on the beach in deep metaphysical discussions (
the two children on the beach may even be stylised versions of their daughters, Shirin then aged twelve and Unity seven), or whether he is imagining what he hoped would have happened had Hilda turned up to his rendezvous, or indeed whether he is combining elements of the two, who knows? But surely it does not matter in light of the frustration he must have felt impelled to depict.

The painting is in fact a hybrid in Stanley's collection, not a fully-observed en plein air Spencer landscape nor yet one of his studio imaginative paintings with their shaped figures. But certainly it is a landscape no longer waiting for its figures. It is somewhat ironic that it
remains among the most popular of his sold prints.