Spencer's Earthly Paradise

PUBLISHED: 00:24 01 March 2012 | UPDATED: 21:08 20 February 2013

Spencer's Earthly Paradise

Spencer's Earthly Paradise

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the opening of the Stanley Spencer Gallery in Cookham High Street so it's wonderful news that an extensive exhibition, including items on short and long-term loan, opens in February.

As a result 50 works will be on show, including self-portraits encompassing his entire career. These powerful self-images range from his dramatic first Self-Portrait in oils of 1914 to his final Self-Portrait of 1959 when he knew he was dying (both lent by Tate). St Francis and the Birds 1935 (also lent by Tate) was one of two works rejected by the hanging committee of the Royal Academy of Arts in 1935, when The Scarecrow was accepted. Here they hang side by side. Spencers rejection led to his furious resignation from the RA.

Domestic Scenes: At the Chest of Drawers, 1936, painted the following year, was deliberately less controversial, and provides an insight into his relationship with his first wife Hilda Carline. The Astor Scrapbook drawings feature other women: Elsie Munday the Spencers maid, Patricia Preece, his second wife and Daphne Charlton with whom he had an affair.

Many of the artists religious and subject pictures, as well as landscapes, were set in Cookham. Those on show include The Last Supper, 1920, Sarah Tubb and the Heavenly Visitors, 1933, Mending Cowls, Cookham, 1915, and Christ Preaching at Cookham Regatta, 1952-9, his final masterpiece, which he did not live to complete.

The role of Lord Astor as Spencers friend and patron is commemorated in the Portrait of The Viscount Astor, 1956, for which the artist set up his easel at nearby Cliveden.

The exhibition is accompanied by a 52-page colour catalogue written by Carolyn Leder, available from the gallery for 4. It opens on 4 February 4 and runs to 8 November.

Admission prices are 5 adult, 4 conc and children, The Art Fund applicants and Friends of the Museum, free. Call 01628 471885 for opening times and group bookings.

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