SPENCER, Sir Stanley

1891 - 1959

Stanley Spencer

Stanley Spencer was born at Fernley Villa, Cookham, Berkshire, on 30 June 1891, the seventh son and second youngest of the eleven children of William Spencer (1845-1928), an organist and music teacher, and his wife, Anna Caroline née Slack (1851-16 May 1922), who married at Cookham in 1873. His brother Gilbert Spencer was only thirteen months younger. Stanley and Gilbert took drawing lessons from a local artist, Dorothy Bailey, and a local landowner Lady Boston, agreed that Stanley could spend time drawing with Bailey each week and in 1907 Lady Boston arranged for Stanley to attend Maidenhead Technical Institute. Spencer studied at the Slade School of Fine Art at University of London 1908-1912 and after leaving the Slade, Spencer became well-known for his paintings depicting Biblical scenes occurring as if in Cookham. After serving in the Medical Corps and later as an infantryman in Macedonia during the First World War Stanley, and his brother Gilbert, would be drawn to Suffolk. Through his brother Gilbert, Stanley met another Slade student, Hilda Carline who, with the Women's Land Army, had been posted to a farm near Wangford, Suffolk and after a painting holiday in Yugoslavia in 1922 they became engaged. By the summer of 1924 Carlene had returned to Wangford and in the autumn Stanley followed her where both artists worked, with Stanley painting a panorama of the marsh beyond the village. They married at Wangford on 23 February 1925 and a daughter, Shirin, was born in November of that year, a second daughter, Unity was born in 1930. Although living and working at Cookham and Hampstead, in 1926 they returned to Wangford with their new daughter Shirin, lodging with the Lambert family when the artists made trips to Southwold. In the summer of 1935, Hilda and the children moved to Hampstead, but the couple were divorced in May 1937. A week after the divorce Spencer married Patricia Preese, but Patricia returned to her lover Dorothy Mary Hepworth (30 September 1894–8 September 1978). In 1937, Stanley returned to Wangford, again lodging at The Cottage with the Lambert's but his finances were now in a perilous state, and he was forced to rely on patrons, including the Martineau's, with whom brother Gilbert would spend his final years, at Walsham le Willows, Suffolk. Spencer's works often express his Christian faith which is evident in the scenes that he based in Cookham, which show the compassion that he felt for his fellow residents and his romantic and sexual obsessions with the nude works depicting his futile relationship with Patricia Preece, such as the 'Leg of Mutton' nude. During the winter of 1937, alone in Southwold, Suffolk, Spencer begins a series of paintings, 'The Beatitudes of Love', about ill-matched couples and these pictures, and others of often radical sexual imagery, were intended for cubicles in Church-House where a visitor could 'meditate on the sanctity and beauty of sex'. His first solo exhibition was at the Goupil Gallery in 1927 and he was elected an Associate of the Royal Academy in 1932 but resigned in 1935 when two of his pictures were rejected but re-elected and was a Royal Academician in 1950. In December 1958, Spencer was diagnosed with cancer and underwent an operation at the Canadian War Memorial Hospital on the Cliveden estate and where Stanley Spencer died on 14 December 1959. The value of Spencer's paintings soared after a retrospective exhibition at the Royal Academy in 1980, his 'The Resurrection' fetched £770,000 at Christie's in 1990, and in May of that year his 'Crucifixion' (1958) fetched £1,320,000.

Royal Academy Exhibits
from c/o Arthur Tooth and Sons, Ltd., 155 New Bond Street, West London
1934 352 Parents' Resurrection
         415 The Meeting
         425 The Angel, Cookham Church
         449 Souvenir of Switzerland
         626 Villagers and Saints
         688 Portrait
from 'Lindworth', Cookham-on-Thames, Berkshire
1935 30 Scarecrow, Cookham
         701 Workmen in the House
         718 Builders
from Ingleside, Downs Road, Epsom
1944 1 The Roundabout
from c/o Arthur Tooth & Sons, Ltd., 31 Bruton Street, West London
1950 66 Garden Path, Cookham Rise
         557 The Resurrection
         564 The Resurrection, Rejoicing
         565 The Resurrection, The Hill of Zion
         566 The Resurrection, Waking Up
         567 The Resurrection, Reunion

Works by This Artist