Sir Stanley Spencer CBE RA (30 June 1891 – 14 December 1959) was an English painter. Shortly after leaving the Slade School of Art, Spencer became well known for his paintings depicting Biblical scenes occurring as if in Cookham, the small village beside the River Thames where he was born and spent much of his life. Spencer referred to Cookham as "a village in Heaven" and in his biblical scenes, fellow-villagers are shown as their Gospel counterparts. Spencer was skilled at organising multi-figure compositions such as in his large paintings for the Sandham Memorial Chapel and the Shipbuilding on the Clyde series, the former being a World War One memorial while the latter was a commission for the War Artists' Advisory Committee during World War Two. As his career progressed Spencer often produced landscapes for commercial necessity and the intensity of his early visionary years diminished somewhat while elements of eccentricity came more to the fore. Although his compositions became more claustrophobic and his use of colour less vivid he maintained an attention to detail in his paintings akin to that of the Pre-Raphaelites.
Spencer's works often express his fervent if unconventional Christian faith. This is especially evident in the scenes that he based in Cookham which show the compassion that he felt for his fellow residents and also his romantic and sexual obsessions. Spencer's works originally provoked great shock and controversy. Nowadays, they still seem stylistic and experimental, while the nude works depicting his futile relationship with Patricia Preece, such as the Leg of mutton nude, foreshadow some of the much later works of Lucian Freud. Spencer's early work is regarded as a synthesis of French Post-Impressionism, exemplified for instance by Paul Gauguin, plus early Italian painting typified by Giotto. In later life Spencer remained an independent artist and did not join any of the artistic movements of the period, although he did show three works at the Second Post-Impressionist Exhibition in 1912.
Artist as subject
Adrian Glew leafs through one of Stanley Spencer’s sketchbooks in the Tate Archive
Edward Platt, Sasha Devas, Elain Harwood and Wilhelm Sasnal reflect on a work in the Tate collection
Tate Etc.invited a selection of contemporary artists featured in the new rehang of British art at Tate Britain to ...
Tate Archive 40th Anniversary Special: highlights from artists’ archives acquired in recent years are selected by family, friends and admirers
Individual reflections on a work in the Tate collection
Contemporary artists on a work in the Tate collection
‘A call reached me from somewhere across the fields (a call that disappeared almost imperceptibly, like a shooting star, so ...
In his first visit to the Tate archive, Lawrence Norfolk searches out some footwear-related items.
The Art of the Garden: Jemima Montagu explores the garden symbol all the way back to Eden, through the ‘close-locked ...
Martin Herbert looks at the use of English landscape, from J B Priestley to Andrew Cross's film series An ...