Close this search box.

stanley spencer – a twentieth century british master


Exquisitely, beautifully illustrated this is a large coffee table book, a fascinating visual feast . It is linked in with the first major exhibition of the artist’s work in Australia which has just finished at Carrick Hill in Adelaide .It follows the story of Stanley Spencer’s various muses and the subjects that made him one of the greatest forces in British painting.

Stanley Spencer (1891-1959) is regarded as one of Britain’s most significant twentieth-century painters. Shortly after studying at the Slade School of Art, Spencer became well known for his paintings depicting Biblical scenes occurring as if in Cookham, the small village beside the River Thames where he was born and spent much of his life.

We learn of his two troubled marriages and turbulent domestic life. We also learn about his agent gallery owner Dudley Tooth . We get a sense of his eccentric strangeness . As it says in the book ‘few artists can have been so organized in their methods as Spencer, and yet few have led a life so outwardly chaotic , complicated and controversial ‘( p25) .

Spencer’s extraordinary output of religious works , landscapes , portraits and complex figure compositions bear comparison with the European greats of his time. He was a war artist during WW11 (eg Shipbuilding on the Clyde and Burners , Caulkers and Welders).

Spencer was most famous (perhaps that should be infamous?) for his celebration and immortalisation of his home village of Cookham and his fusion of the menial and the miraculous. Sex and saints, angels and dirt, the sacred and the profane: all these were blended together by Spencer’s extraordinary artist’s eye and sense of pattern and design.

The plants become vivid and alive, one can feel the texture of the clothes worn. His work owed ‘as much to Giotto as it did to Gaugin” . His major influences were Giotto, Masaccio and Fra Angelico. While he never visited Down Under, Spencer’s work is in every major institution throughout Australia and New Zealand including the Art Gallery of NSW.

The book is divided into several chapters and includes a message from Spencer’s grandson John. It also looks at the Haywards who founded the Carrick Hill gallery and the collection and their influence and the development of the art market here in Australia.

Illustrations range from striking black and white photos, delicate pencil drawings ( eg of Margaret in 1956) and Spencer’s wonderful landscapes and flower paintings ( eg Sunflower and Cockmarsh and not forgetting Blue Iris ). A wonderful wet and windswept A Wet Morning St Ives is also featured.

There are also some wonderful religious paintings for example Christ’s Entry Into Jerusalem , The Last Supper and Christ Evicting The Money Changers ).

There is a riveting portrait of Spencer by Henry Lamb as well as challenging , revealing Spencer self portraits and a wonderful grainy black and white close up portrait photo. Also a shot of Spencer with his work trolley (actually a pram) and umbrella.

Citations are listed at the back , there is a list of the various public and private collections Spencer is included in , an excellent chronological timeline of Spencer’s life and an extensive bibliography.


The book was published to coincide with the Carrick Hill exhibition.


Stanley Spencer: a twentieth century British Master/ Category Arts, Architecture and Design/Format Jacketed hardback/Size 290 x 260 mm/ISBN 978174305432/ Extent 112 pages



Subscribe to our Bi-Weekly Newstetter

Sign up for our bi-weekly newsletter to receive updates and stay informed about art and cultural events around Sydney. – it’s free!

Want More?

Get exclusive access to free giveaways and double passes to cinema and theatre events across Sydney. 

Scroll to Top