Here’s former director of the Fitzwilliam, Duncan Robinson.
'Well, when Spencer painted this picture in 1935, the ideas in it go back quite a long way in his work. In fact, he, himself, relates it to, directly to his experiences in the First World War, and I think it's interesting that his first title for this picture was actually "Humanity".
What he was really doing here was expressing his own conviction that a world which had been torn apart by a particularly painful war, that his conviction that the future lay not in war and discord, but in love among nations, harmony among peoples.
He actually said himself, that, and I am quoting Spencer, "during the war when I contemplated the horror of my life and the lives of those with me I felt that the only way to end the ghastly experience would be if everyone suddenly decided to indulge in every degree and form of sexual love" and he goes on to say "these are the joyful inheritances of mankind".
So this is an antidote, if you like, to all that pain and suffering and death, and it's also in a way, isn't it, sort of almost a testimony for the League of Nations, which has just been founded in the aftermath of the War – bringing together the peoples, the races of the world into what's a kind of international "comesa" – a great love-in by people from everywhere, every kind of background, and it's done with a certain wit and humour.
I mean all of these people, embracing and cuddling one another, and he himself, of course, sitting on the ground, on the right-hand side of the picture, in that very unmistakable checked jacket, sort of arms wide embracing the two kneeling women beside him.
One of whom is examining the buttons on his jacket with a kind of fascination of the unusual. It's a reversal of roles because he has become exotic to her, when in fact most of us standing in front of the picture would identify the exotic with the other.'
The transcription of the audio file for this stop was enabled by the AHRC funded crowd-sourcing platform MicroPasts. The below generously gave their time to transcribe the file.
Chris Gibbon, Mariah Ashbacher, Michael Norman, Shona Hoey