At its most characteristic, the art of Charles Rebel Stanton exemplifies the Jazz Age in Britain, encompassing as it does both images of flappers for popular illustrated magazines and an Art Deco relief for the Queen Mary. Said to be trained as an architect, he became successful as an illustrator, painter and sculptor, and produced a range of work that included powerful scenes of devastation in both world wars. Charles Rebel Stanton was born in Kentish Town, London, on 3 February 1887, the third of seven children of the book seller’s assistant, Charles Stanton, and his wife, Amelia (née Tate). At the time of the 1891 Census, the family was living at 22 Corinne Road, Islington. Nothing is known of Stanton’s education but, at the time of the 1901 Census, when he was 14 years old, he was working as a Science Assistant for the School Board of London, probably at a local school. By then, he and his family had moved to 121 South Street, Greenwich, and his father was working as a carpenter.
In The Art of the RMS Queen Mary (1994), Douglas M Hinkey describes Stanton as ‘a painter trained as an architect’.
While nothing is known of his architectural training, he is described as an ‘artist’ in the 1911 Census, which also records that he was still living with his family, which had moved to 53 Grosvenor Park SE, St Mary Newington. In the previous year, he had won second prize in the class for ‘pictorial art’ in a competition organised by the magazine, The Studio.
Charles Stanton began his career as a commercial artist, designing posters and postcards and illustrating books, and signing his work ‘Charles R Stanton’. Commissions included a poster for the Fine Art Society that was general enough in its design to have been used to advertise any number of exhibitions (though the example that has come to light promoted ‘Water Colours of Flower Time … by Rosa Wallis’ of 1911). His postcard designs ranged between imaginary monsters (published by C W Faulkner & Co) and views of Minehead and Dunster (published by Frith). He also contributed illustrations to Hutchinson’s History of the Nations (1914-16).
Following the outbreak of the First World War in 1914, Stanton enlisted as a Private in the First Surrey Rifles in March 1915. He became a Second Lieutenant in September of that year and a Lieutenant in the following June. One of his younger brothers, John Tate Stanton, served in the same regiment, and died in 1916. Though not an official war artist during the First World War, Stanton produced a number of watercolours of the devastated landscapes of Belgium and northern France while on active service. He also designed a Christmas card for the regiment.
It has been suggested that Stanton began to make use of his middle name, Rebel, during the First World War. Certainly, he signed his work ‘C Rebel Stanton’ after the war, and was sometimes known simply as Rebel Stanton. From the early 1920s, he designed book covers for publishers that included Mills & Boon. Gradually, he established his reputation with watercolours of alluring young women that were published in such magazines as The Bystander, The Illustrated London News, Picture Post, The Sketch and The Tatler. He also worked as a painter in oils, producing not only landscapes but also a series symbolising the progress of transport through the ages, which was commissioned for Transport House, the London headquarters of the Transport and General Workers’ Union. In 1926, he married Eunice Emily Cantrell Stones, who was 12 years his junior, and they settled together at a flat in Warren House, 295 Euston Road. In 1930, he would hold an exhibition at his studio in Warren House.
During the early 1930s, Stanton spent two years perfecting a new form of relief, in which he superimposed layers of American whitewood, which he then painted in tempera or oil. The process was described in H B Newbold’s Modern Practical Building (which first appeared in 1934). Examples of these reliefs included medallions of Derby winners that temporarily decorated the Plaza Hall, Dublin, the venue of the Irish Sweepstake draw (1932) and a frieze for an aerodrome administration block, commissioned by the Fairby Construction Company (1935). Most famous, however, was the nickel-coated mural panel that incorporated a clock, which he produced for the Second Class Lounge of the Queen Mary (1935). This was a particularly prestigious commission, as the liner was something of a floating ambassador and showcased the talents of many of Britain’s leading artists. Stanton also developed a line in decorative masks, including one of the comic actor, Will Hay, which graced the bohemian Arts and Letters Club, in Ham Yard, Soho, of which the artist was a member (1937).
By 1936, Stanton had divorced his wife Eunice (who, in that year, would marry a pottery agent called Gordon Munro). He was living at 101 Adelaide Road, Chalk Farm, in 1937, and at 24 Formosa Street, Maida Vale, two years later. During the Second World War, Stanton produced drawings and paintings of bomb damaged buildings in London, and specifically of the Holborn area between September 1940 and July 1941. However, it is uncertain whether he ever received a commission from the War Artists’ Advisory Committee to produce such images. (In a PhD thesis of 1991, B F Foss records that he made four unsuccessful applications to the WAAC.)
By 1946, Stanton was based at Redcliffe Road, in Kensington. In that year, he produced The Silver Star Statuette, the hallmarked silver trophy for the new National Film Award based on a competition-winning design by a young Southport schoolteacher, Juliet Brothers. Three such statuettes were presented annually by the Daily Mail for the best British film, and the best performance by an actor and an actress in British films.
His work is represented in the collections of the Cuming Museum, Art Collection and Local History Library and Archive (Southwark).