Narrator: This 'Double Nude Portrait' seems never to have been exhibited in Stanley Spencer's lifetime. In fact, after an action for obscenity was brought against his work by the painter Alfred Munnings in the 1950s, Spencer kept it hidden under his bed.
In 1937 Spencer was divorced from his wife Hilda, and re-married, a few days later, to Patricia Preece the woman in this painting. The painter and art historian, Timothy Hyman
The painting Spencer always called the 'Leg of Mutton Nude' was painted only two months before his marriage to Patricia Preece, and it in some ways encapsulates the story of a relationship Patricia herself had come to Cookham with her lifelong partner Dorothy Hepworth who she'd met at the Slade in 1918 and, by the time Spencer was on the scene they were facing destitution. I think there's little doubt that Spencer was the dupe of a strategy simply to survive. It began with Patricia befriending him, with her modelling for him in the evenings in the mid 1930s, and by the time this picture was painted he'd made enormous gifts of jewellery far more than he could possibly afford and had also made over his very valuable 7-bedroom house to her name. It may be helpful to know that even on the wedding certificate Patricia lied about her age she was six years older than she said and that all her work as a painter was in fact done by Dorothy Hepworth, she merely signed it and, as it were, played the artist.
The 'Leg of Mutton Nude' is the culminating work in what we know as the naked portraits where, in some ways, Spencer is applying all the landscape attention, all the minute, detailed scrutiny, a disillusioned scrutiny, and applying it to someone he loves, but who after all doesn't love him. And the extraordinary emotional edge of these pictures has to do with this mismatch.