SPENCER, Gilbert

1892 - 1979

Gilbert Spencer

Gilbert Spencer was born at Fernley Villa, Cookham, Berkshire, on 4 August 1892, the eighth son and 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 Stanley Spencer was just thirteen months older than Gilbert. Gilbert's formal education was sketchy, but he studied at Camberwell School of Arts & Crafts and the Royal College of Art and in 1913, Gilbert followed his brother Stanley to the Slade School of Fine Art, London under Henry Tonks (1862-1937). The outbreak of the First World War in August 1914 interrupted Spencer's career and he left an unfinished picture that he was working on, 'Sashes Meadow' which was later acquired by the Tate Gallery, and he enlisted in the Royal Army Medical Corps, and was drafted to Macedonia in the Balkans and after the war, in 1919 Spencer returned to the Slade with a scholarship for another year. In 1922 he joined the art staff at Oxford which provided him with an income until in 1923 when he put together his first solo show at the Goupil Gallery, London at which time he was producing some of his best pictures such as 'Crucifixion' and 'Shepherds Amazed'. In 1930, Gilbert was appointed to the staff of the Royal College of Art by Sir William Rothenstein (1872-1945) and in the same year married at St George's Hanover Square, London, Margaret Ursula Bradshaw (1901-6 June 1959), daughter of John Gerald Bradshaw, headmaster of Packwood Haugh Preparatory School for Boys, Warwickshire. In 1934 Spencer was commissioned by Balliol College, Oxford to paint murals for its new building at Holywell Manor, Oxford and on completion of the work in 1936, the Spencer's left Oxford with their only daughter and went to live at Tree Cottage, Upper Basildon, Reading, Berkshire, spending holidays in their Dorset farmhouse. In 1941, the college was evacuated to Ambleside, Cumbria, where he painted a series of watercolours of comic episodes in the Home Guard. In 1948, with the advent of Robin Darwin (1910-1974), Spencer lost his position at the Royal College of Art but was appointed head of painting and drawing at the Glasgow School of Art, where he remained for two years. On 21 April 1950, elected an Associate of the Royal Academy and in the same year took the position as head of painting at the Camberwell School of Arts and Crafts, which he held for six years. Elected a Royal Academician on 23 April 1959 but, like his brother, was a somewhat stormy member, resigning on 16 October 1968, over the loss of a portrait of his daughter, only to rejoin on 25 March 1971. In 1961 the author and illustrator of book 'Stanley Spencer'. In 1964, he had a retrospective exhibition at Reading and ten years later a further retrospective at the Fine Art Society in London. In 1970, he left Berkshire for a farm cottage at Walsham-le-Willows, Suffolk and though he could no longer paint, he wrote his 'Memoirs of a Painter' (1974) and entered into family and village life. He died in a nursing home at Lynderswood Court, Black Notley, Braintree, Essex on 14 January 1979. His work is also represented in the Victoria and Albert Museum and the Imperial War Museum, London; Manchester City Art Gallery; the Graves Art Gallery, Sheffield; and Belfast City Art Gallery. He signed his works 'Gilbert Spencer' joined.

Royal Academy Exhibits
from 38 Lansdown Crescent, West London
1934 89 The Artist's Wife
         455 Hughenden Valley
from Church Rise Cottage, Walsham le Willows, Suffolk
1971 282 Self-portrait – pencil
910 The Rick Party
1972 208 Elizabeth - pencil
215 Charles Martineau – pencil
322 The Back Field, Tree Cottage
540 Early Morning: Rain about
559 View from Brook Farm
1973 254 Miss E. A. Hotchin – pencil
258 Mrs Charles Martineau – pencil
279 Ursula Bathing - pencil
292 The Drift, Brook Farm - pencil
986 Semi-final of the English Cup
998 Windowscape from Brook Farm, Walsham le Willows
1976 301 Self-portrait – purchased for the Chantrey Bequest

Works by This Artist