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Stanley Spencer

 (1891 - 1959)
Stanley Spencer was active/lived in United Kingdom, England.  Stanley Spencer is known for religious, marine and military theme painting.

Stanley Spencer

    SPEN-ser  speaker-click to hear pronunciation  click to hear

Biography from MB Fine Art, LLC

Biography photo for Stanley Spencer
Stanley Spencer, the son of William Spencer, a teacher of music, was born in Cookham, Berkshire, in 1891. When Spencer was seventeen he entered the Slade School of Fine Art at University College, London. Other students at the Slade at that time included C. R. W. Nevinson and Mark Gertler. At the Slade he won the Composition Prize with The Nativity (1912).

On the outbreak of the First World War, Spencer joined the Royal Army Medical Corps (RAMC). For a while he worked at Beaufort Hospital in Bristol, but in August 1916 he was sent as part of the 68th Field Ambulance to Salonika, a port being defended by General Maurice Sarrail and 150,000, British and French soldiers.  In May, 1918, Stanley Spencer was asked to contribute to the government planned Hall of Remembrance. The letter asked him to "to paint a picture under such title as A Religious Service at the Front, or any subjects in or about Salonika".

However, it was not until after the Armistice that Spencer painting his most famous war painting, Travoys Arriving with Wounded at a Dressing Station at Smol, Macedonia, September 1916.  After the war Stanley Spencer was commissioned to paint a decorative scheme of murals of army life for the Sandham Memorial Chapel in Burghclere, Hampshire (1926-32). The mural is painted as a modern parallel to Giotto's Arena Chapel in Padua. The cycle of scenes from everyday military life culminates in the altarpiece, Resurrection of the Soldiers.

Spencer was also a War Artist in the Second World War. His best known work during this period was a series of panels depicting Shipbuilding on the Clyde.

During his lifetime, Spencer was never less than controversial, both adulated and despised, a touchstone for those close to him and a thorn in the side of the conventional English art world of the time. His art shocked by its unvarnished emotion and its persistent emphasis on a personal, not to say crankily eccentric, truth. Spencer reinterpreted the most hallowed stories of the Christian faith with events and actors drawn from his private experience and situated them anew in his native Cookham (the Thames-side village so central to everything Spencer thought and said that his friends nicknamed him Cookham).

He painted a Resurrection in the Cookham churchyard, for instance, and peopled it with relatives and friends, his wife-to-be appearing no fewer than three times in the composition. More troubling still to the sexually repressed sensibilities of the time was the erotic element in Spencer's work, which writhed in barely contained, symbolic form or occasionally burst out with pent-up force, as in the famous 'Leg of Mutton Nude' in 1937.

Such outbursts came close to getting Spencer into serious trouble: there was at one point a concerted move within the English art establishment to have him prosecuted for obscenity.

But he had, from the very beginning of his career, a devoted following, drawn by the sense of absolute commitment that he radiated as much as by his undeniable pictorial gifts. They were recognized even while Spencer was studying at the Slade School of Fine Art in London, where he carried off the prizes and was called, not altogether fondly, ''our genius,'' even though
his fellow pupils included such talented young artists as William Roberts, David Bomberg and Paul Nash.

And although, with what sounds like a maddening mix of genuine spirituality and self-righteous egoism, Spencer alienated some of those who loved and respected him most (notably his first wife, Hilda), he never lacked admirers, and their support helped to carry him through some of the darker moments of his life.

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About  Stanley Spencer

Born:  1891 - Cockham, Berkshire, England
Died:   1959 - Taplow, England
Known for:  religious, marine and military theme painting