63 / Sir Stanley Spencer

Sir Stanley Spencer (b.1891, d.1959) was an English painter, one of the most original figures in 20th century British art.  His distinctive, inventive style places him as one of the most interesting artists at work in England, in particular, during the inter-war years.

Stanley Spencer lived almost all his life in his native Cookham, a Berkshire village he loved, on the banks of the River Thames.  Even while studying at the Slade School of Fine Art in London he preferred to return to Cookham for the evening meal.

The town of Maidenhead is some 6 kilometres to the south of Cookham and it was here that my mother met Stanley Spencer.  She worked as an assistant in a high-class confectioner's. As a bright, attractive young woman, she caught his eye.  She must have encountered him often enough through her work for him to feel able to ask her more than once to model for him.  My mother always demurely declined.  Despite his protestations to the contrary, she felt that agreeing to be a model would inevitably lead to her taking off her clothes.  This she was not prepared to do.  But when my mother told us this story as children there seemed always a wistfulness to her tone, a nostalgia for what might perhaps have been.

The irony is that Stanley Spencer may well have painted her anyway. Just as the village played a large part in the imagery of his paintings, local people, people he was familiar with, often featured in his large-scale biblical canvasses. Perhaps I might recognize her…

Stock Photo: Stanley Spencer

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