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About Stanley Spencer - English Painter

Updated on December 8, 2014
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Katherine has researched and written about many British, European and Japanese Artists - both past and present

Graphical representation of his self portrait c.1939
Graphical representation of his self portrait c.1939

Sir Stanley Spencer KCB CBE RA (1891 - 1959)

Find out about Sir Stanley Spencer - one of the most famous and most eccentric of English painters. He was a key figure in the development of Figurative Art in the UK in first half of the 20th century

For more information and about his life and work you can consult the various links below which:

  • provide biographical information
  • advise where you can see his paintings and drawings - in exhibitions, art galleries and museums and online
  • read about Spencer and his paintings
  • view videos about his paintings

Biography of Stanley Spencer

Timeline for Sir Stanley Spencer CBE RA 1891 - 1959

'Fernlea' in Cookham, birthplace and childhood home of Stanley Spencer.  11.5" x 8.5", pen and sepia ink and coloured pencil sketch in Daler Rowney sketchbook copyright Katherine Tyrrell
'Fernlea' in Cookham, birthplace and childhood home of Stanley Spencer. 11.5" x 8.5", pen and sepia ink and coloured pencil sketch in Daler Rowney sketchbook copyright Katherine Tyrrell | Source

Stanley Spencer was an English Painter. His subject matter varied and ranged between war paintings; imaginative and religious subjects, landscapes and very occasional portraits.

30 June 1891: Born in Cookham, Berkshire

1907: Maidenhead Technical Institute

1908 - 1912: Slade School of Art, London (1910: awarded a scholarship; 1912: awarded the Summer Composition Prize). He was taught by Henry Tonks who recognised his talent from the very beginning. Fellow Students included Dora Carrington, Mark Gertler, Paul Nash, David Bomberg and CRW Nevinson. The latter took to calling him "Cookham" and he commuted to the School of Art from Cookham on a daily basis.

1912: Exhibited at the Second Post-Impressionist Exhibition

1915: worked as an Orderly with the Royal Army Medical Corps (RAMC) at Beaufort War Hospital (aka Glenside)

1916: volunteered for active service in Macedonia with RAMC; he was subsequently commissioned to be a war artist.

1919 - 1927: Member of the New English Art Club (NEAC)

1922 - Visited Yugoslavia with his future wife and her family

1925: Married Hilda Carline

1927: One man exhibition (his first) at the Goupil Gallery

1927 - 32: Lived at Burghclere, Hampshire (war paintings for Sandham memorial Chapel at Burghclere)

1932 - 38: Lived at Cookham

1932 - Became an Associate of the Royal Academy of Arts (A.R.A.)

1933: Visited Switzerland; Got an Honourable Mention, Carnegie Institute, Pittsburgh, 1933. ;

1935 - resigned from the Royal Academy after the rejection of two of his paintings

1940 - 1944 - Official War Artist - he painted a series of 8 paintings relating to the shipyards at Port Glasgow, the shipworkers and the local community

1945 - Returned to live in Cookham

1947 - Retrospective exhibition at Temple Newsam, Leeds

1950 - became CBE, A.R.A. and R.A.

1954 - visited China as a member of a cultural delegation

1954 - 1955 - Exhibition of drawings toured the UK - arranged by the Arts Council

1955 - Retrospective Exhibition at the Tate Gallery

1959 - Knighted - he became Sir Stanley Spencer

14 December 1959 - Died at Taplow

1962 - The Stanley Spencer Gallery was opened at Cookham in 1962

1963 - Memorial exhibition, Plymouth.

Stanley Spencer
Stanley Spencer
Paperback: 406 pagesPublisher: Phaidon Press (March 10, 2000)Language: English

Stanley Spencer - by Keith Bell

This is the essential work of reference - it's a comprehensive catalogue raisonnee of the artwork of Stanley Spencer

Rated an average of:

  • 4.6 out of 5 stars based on 5 customer reviews on
  • 4.8 out of 5 stars based on 8 customer reviews on

Stanley Spencer: Art as a Mirror of Himself
Stanley Spencer: Art as a Mirror of Himself
Hardcover: 192 pages Publisher: Lund Humphries; New edition edition (February 10, 2014)

'Stanley Spencer' by Andrew Causey

This book provides a comprehensive overview of Stanley Spencer's career. The author locates his art within the wider context of Spencer's set of values related to his spiritual, political and social world.

The author Andrew Causey was Emeritus Professor of the History of Modern Art at Manchester University. His expertise lies in 20th century art and he has contributed to catalogues for and organised exhibitions at a number of prestigious galleries in the UK. He's also the author of a number of books about modern British Artists - Henry Moore, Paul Nash, Edward Burra and Peter Lanyon. He died in 2014.

The Stanley Spencer Gallery at Cookham

Stanley Spencer Gallery at Cookham

Biographer of London, Peter Ackroyd, heads upstream for Cookham on the Thames. It was once home of the 20th century artist Stanley Spencer, and Peter visits the gallery in the village dedicated to his work. From a 2008 film.

Location of The Stanley Spencer Gallery - The Kings Hall, High Street, Cookham, Berkshire, SL6 9SJ

Strictly speaking the gallery is now part of the Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead!

You can also walk to the gallery from the railway station. The local station is on a branch line which connects at Maidenhead to the main Reading/Paddington line. This is the way that Stanley travelled up to London for his studies and for visits to art galleries and exhibitions

a gallery dedicated to the life and work of Sir Stanley Spencer RA (1891-1959):
Stanley Spencer Art Gallery, Cookham, Windsor and Maidenhead SL6 9SJ

get directions

Paintings by Stanley Spencer

Famous Paintings

Prior to 1922 - paintings did not belong to any particular series or theme

1916: Travoys Arriving with Wounded at a Dressing Station at Smol, Macedonia, September 1916 (now in the Imperial War Museum)

1924: Began paintings which reflect his experiences of the First World War - Resurrection: Cookham and the Burghclere paintings.

1933: Began ‘Pentecost’ scheme - including Sarah Tubb and the Heavenly Visitors, Villagers and Saints, Separating Fighting Swans

1935: Began Cana Scheme - The Marriage at Cana, Dusting Shelves, Workmen in the House, Love among the Nations

1936 -1938: Started a Couple painting scheme which included a growing emphasis on the physical aspects of love

1939: Began the Christ in the Wilderness series

1940: Began paintings of Shipbuilding on the Clyde. These were commissioned by the War Artists’ Advisory Committee.

Self Portraits

Compare how the style of painting changes over the years as well as the look of the man


Exhibitions of Artwork in the UK

There have been two major retrospective exhibitions Spencer's work in London in 1955 and 2001.

There have also been small exhibitions which have focused on particular aspects of his work - such as his paintings of gardens and his first world war paintings.

Stanley Spencer and the English Garden
Stanley Spencer and the English Garden
Paperback: 96 pagesPublisher: Paul Holberton Publishing; 1st Edition edition (15 Jun 2011)

Stanley Spencer and the English Garden - Essays by Keith Bell, Jeremy Gould and Martin Postle. Edited by Steven Parissien

I own this book - and thoroughly enjoyed it. I'm very sorry I missed the exhibition.

Rated 4.5 out of 5 stars based on 2 customer reviews

I had no idea Spencer had created so many paintings involving gardens. Apparently his paintings of gardens, houses and landscapes in and around Cookham proved to be the more popular of his paintings during his lifetime.

Stanley Spencer: An English Vision
Stanley Spencer: An English Vision
Hardcover: 208 pagesPublisher: Yale University Press (October 20, 1997)

Stanley Spencer: An English Vision - by Fiona MacCarthy

Rated: 4.7 out of 5 stars based on 3 customer reviews

This book is the catalogue for an exhibition which travelled across the USA in 1997-98. It was displayed at

* the Hirshhorn Museum in Washington

* Chicago

* San Francisco.

War Art and the Sandham Memorial Chapel, Burghclere

Spencer was a War Artist during and after the First World War

War Art

Spencer's contributions to war art in the First World War mainly came towards the end and afterwards.

In the Second World War, Sir Stanley Spencer was commissioned during the War by the War Artists Advisory Committee. He was asked to paint the contribution made by the ship workers and created a series of 8 paintings of the shipyards and the various people who worked to build ships. His paintings also included the working class community of Port Glasgow

About Sandham Memorial Chapel and Spencer's First World War paintings - Harts Lane, Burghclere, near Newbury, RG20 9JT

Sandham Memorial Chapel was built in the village of Burghclere, Hampshire, England. It is best known as the home of a series of paintings of the First World War by Stanley Spencer.

After the end of the First World War, Mary and Louis Behrend commissioned the chapel as a memorial to her brother Lieutenant Henry Willoughby Sandham. He died of malarial encephalitis in Macedonia - where Spencer also served - at the end of the First World War.

The chapel was built in the 1920s which is when the paintings were done. The fact that it contains Spencer's paintings now mean that it is rated Grade 1 Listed status by English Heritage.

The paintings represent his own experiences of the First World War. He served as a medical orderly with the Royal Army Medical Corps. Spencer served initial at Beaufort Hospital in Bristol, and subsequently served in Macedonia, first as a medical orderly and then as part of the infantry.

The National Trust accepted the chapel as a gift in 1947. The Chapel is closed for restoration works. The planned reopening date is the end of July 2014. The address is: Harts Lane, Burghclere, near Newbury, RG20 9JT

Stanley Spencer: Journey to Burghclere
Stanley Spencer: Journey to Burghclere
Hardcover: 208 pagesPublisher: Sansom (Acc) (July 5, 2007)

Stanley Spencer: Journey to Burghclere - by Paul Gough

This is the story of how he came to realise his experiences of the war - in the UK and in Macedonia - and how he came to spend most of the 1920s painting the interior of a chapel in Burghclere

Sandham Chapel Paintings - links to where you can see these online

All the paintings and drawings are by Sir Stanley Spencer, CBE, RA (Cookham 1891– Cliveden 1959)

Men of the Clyde: Stanley Spencer's Vision at Port Glasgow
Men of the Clyde: Stanley Spencer's Vision at Port Glasgow
Paperback: 80 pagesPublisher: National Galleries Of Scotland (July 29, 2006)

Men of the Clyde: Stanley Spencer's Vision at Port Glasgow

This book is about the paintings which Spencer was commissioned to make of the shipyards at Port Glasgow and Linlithgow. They depict the different trades and activities which come together to build a ship

Art from the Second World War
Art from the Second World War
Publisher: Imperial War Museum (1 Feb 2007)

Art and the Second World War

This book contains art from the Imperial War Museum Collection - including Spencer's Port Glasgow series

Auctions of Spencer's Artwork


Christ Preaching at Cookham Regatta: Conversation Between Punts (estimate 3-5 million). This painting belongs to the series painted in the 1950s, which explores the idea of Christ’s presence in his home town of Cookham


VIDEO: Sir Stanley Spencer: A Journey of Discovery - by Sotheby's TV

About Cookham

Cookham is a village lying next to the River Thames in southern England. It is the birthplace of Stanley Spencer and features in or is the background context for many of his paintings.

The house where he was born and lived lies very nearly opposite the local parish church which features in his paintings relating to religious matters


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