Stanley Spencer Gallery - 50th Anniversary Exhibition

By Kayleigh Rose Lewis | 06 February 2012
An image of an oil painting of a man staring back out
© Tate, London 2011
Exhibition: Stanley Spencer Gallery - 50th Anniversary Exhibition, The Stanley Spencer Gallery, Cookham, until November 4 2012

The Stanley Spencer Gallery in Cookham is celebrating its 50th anniversary with Spencer’s Earthly Paradise, an exhibition of the local artists work.

The gallery, which was a Wesleyan chapel in Spencer's youth before being sold in 1910, was converted three years after his death as a memorial to the artist.

The anniversary exhibition will show an extensive collection of more than 50 works, featuring a selection taking from the gallery and also including a number of loaned pieces.

Notable borrowed works include a 1914 self-portrait when the artist was a young man and another from 1959, when he knew he was dying, both from the Tate.

Together with the gallery's own works, they form part of a series of self-portraits on display, spanning Spencer’s career and offering a fascinating insight to the artist’s reflection of himself.   

When discussing his inspiration the artist once said: "When I left the Slade and went back to Cookham I entered a kind of earthly paradise."

Many of the pieces from the exhibition highlight Spencer’s connection to his hometown, often combining memories of Cookham with the influence of religion.

Sarah Tubb and the Heavenly Visitors, from 1933, shows Granny Tubb kneeling to pray in Cookham High Street, fearing the world was going to end following Halley's Comet.

Other works on display include Last Supper, from 1920, set in a Cookham malt-house, Mending Cowls, Cookham, 1915 and Christ Preaching at Cookham Regatta, which he began in 1952 and never completed.

The exhibition is a fine testament to the Cookham gallery, which was originally opened in 1962 by Spencer’s friends and supporters.

Although it received a Heritage Lottery Grant in 2007 to convert it into a stylish modern exhibition space, it is still entirely run by volunteers.

It serves as a lasting homage to a man who worshipped in the original chapel with his mother as a youngster and lived and worked in Cookham for most of his life.

  • Open 11am-4.30pm Thursday-Sunday (10.30am-5.30pm every day from April 1). Admission £5/£4 (free for accompanied children).

More pictures:

An image of a self-portait of a man staring out of the canvas in oil
Self-Portrait (1914). Painting oil on canvas© Tate, London 2011
An oil painting of people balancing on the top of roofs at night
Mending Cowls, Cookham (1915). Painting oil on canvas© Tate, London 2011
An image of a colourful oil portrait of a man in robes surrounded by geese
St Francis and the Birds (1935). Painting oil on canvas© Tate, London 2011
More on the venues and organisations we've mentioned:
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