Presented during the 125th anniversary of Spencer’s birth, the exhibition brings together over 70 works spanning his entire career, including rarely-seen self-portraits and extracts from his diaries and writings offering a unique insight into his life and work.
The exhibition explores the seemingly conflicting themes that Spencer fused together in his richly detailed paintings, of religion and sexuality, work and leisure, nature and industry, highlighting Spencer’s distinctive view of everyday life. As Spencer himself put it, ‘I am on the side of angels and dirt’.
The arrangement of the paintings allows visitors to view bodies of work that he created throughout his life as a whole, such as his landscape paintings, including views of his beloved hometown of Cookham, and his series of portraits of people close to him, including a number of depictions of his second wife, Patricia Preece. The exhibition will also examine the lifelong influence that early Italian Renaissance paintings by such artists as Botticelli, Fra Angelico and Giotto had on Spencer’s work, with a significant loan from the National Gallery, London.
Stanley Spencer fans and collectors include the late David Bowie, who narrated the BBC Omnibus Special about the painter in 2001. Spencer was among Bowie’s favourite British artists. Adam Ant (born Stuart Goddard) spent summer holidays in Cookham and grew up being inspired by the painter, who he calls his "favourite artist of all time"; Andrew Lloyd Webber, who owns several works by Spencer and considers both Stanley Spencer and Francis Bacon as two of the greatest British painters of the twentieth century as well as British sculptor Anthony Gormley, broadcaster Jon Snow and art historian James Fox, who recently became President of the Friends of Stanley Spencer Gallery.