1891 – 1959
A renowned artist who became synonymous with his home village of Cookham.
Stanley Spencer was born in Cookham in 1891. The family home ‘Fernlea’ had been built by his grandfather Julius Spencer. Stanley was educated at home by his sisters, but also had drawing lessons from local artist Dorothy Bailey.
Later, he attended the Maidenhead Technical Institute, followed by 4 years at Slade School of Art in London, studying alongside Dora Carrington, Paul Nash and others.
Initially joining the Medical Corps, Stanley served on the front line in the First World War, in the Berkshire Regiment, before being invalided out for malaria. His painting ‘Travoys arriving with wounded at a dressing station at Smol, Macedonia September 1916’ is displayed in the Imperial War Museum.
In February 1927, Stanley held his first solo exhibition. The centrepiece picture, ‘The Resurrection, Cookham’ gained rave reviews, described in the Times as “the most important picture painted by any English artist in the present century”. Like many of his paintings it carried religious themes, and used Cookham as a setting.
Stanley had married Hilda Carline in 1925, and moved to London. In 1932 they moved back to Cookham with their 2 daughters. Here he met Patricia Preece, an aspiring artist who modelled for several of his paintings. Their relationship led to his divorce, and he married Patricia immediately afterwards, but the marriage did not last.
During World War Two, Stanley was commissioned as a war artist to paint shipbuilders on the Clyde.
In his later years he was a familiar sight wandering around Cookham (wearing pyjamas under his clothes in cold weather), pushing a pram in which he carried his easel and painting equipment. In 1958 he completed ‘The Crucifixion’, which he set in Cookham High Street, and in 1959, shortly before his death, he completed ‘Self Portrait’.
In 1962 the Stanley Spencer Gallery, a museum dedicated to his life and work, was opened in Cookham. His reputation as one of the great British artists of the last century has survived to the present day.
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