Stanley Spencer: Of Angels and Dirt

Saturday 25 June - Wednesday 5 October 2016

Stanley Spencer opening party

'In his anniversary year, it’s time to see beyond the paintings of wisteria blossom to the angels and the dirt...' The Spectator 

'In these troubled times, this is a show to cheer you up.' BBC Arts 

The first major survey in 15 years of the work of one of Britain’s best loved painters, Stanley Spencer. Presented during the 125th anniversary of Spencer’s birth, the exhibition brings together over 70 works spanning his entire career, including rarely-seen self-portraits and extracts from his diaries and writings offering a unique insight into his life and work.

The exhibition explores the seemingly conflicting themes that Spencer fused together in his richly detailed paintings, of religion and sexuality, work and leisure, nature and industry, highlighting Spencer’s distinctive view of everyday life. As Spencer himself put it, ‘I am on the side of angels and dirt’.

The arrangement of the paintings allows visitors to view bodies of work that he created throughout his life as a whole, such as his landscape paintings, including views of his beloved hometown of Cookham, and his series of portraits of people close to him, including a number of depictions of his second wife, Patricia Preece. The exhibition will also examine the lifelong influence that early Italian Renaissance paintings by such artists as Botticelli, Fra Angelico and Giotto had on Spencer’s work, with a significant loan from the National Gallery, London.

Stanley Spencer fans and collectors include the late David Bowie, who narrated the BBC Omnibus Special about the painter in 2001. Spencer was among Bowie’s favourite British artists. Adam Ant (born Stuart Goddard) spent summer holidays in Cookham and grew up being inspired by the painter, who he calls his "favourite artist of all time"; Andrew Lloyd Webber, who owns several works by Spencer and considers both Stanley Spencer and Francis Bacon as two of the greatest British painters of the twentieth century as well as British sculptor Anthony Gormley, broadcaster Jon Snow and art historian James Fox, who recently became President of the Friends of Stanley Spencer Gallery.


Stanley Spencer wrote extensively about his work and life, stating in 1949, 'so good do I think what I have written about my pictures I would almost prefer that other people should paint them in order to leave me to write about them.'

With our Stanley Spencer audioguide you can hear Spencer's thoughts while viewing the work he was writing about, giving you unprecedented access to one of the most unique minds of the modern era. The audioguide is available to hire from the welcome desk.
£3 / Members, students, job seekers (with proof of status) £2.50



Saturday 20 August
11:30 am – 12:30pm
£8 / £6.40 Concession / £6 Member / £4 Student

Join leading art historian and trustee of the Stanley Spencer Gallery, Carolyn Leder as she introduces the fascinating world of Stanley Spencer. 

Read more... 


Saturday 24 September
10am – 5pm
£25 / £20 Concession / £18.75 Member / £12.50 Student 

Accompanying the exhibition Stanley Spencer: Of Angels and Dirt, ‘Modern Gods: Religion and British Modernism’ will investigate the religious beliefs of a variety of British artists and critics who were active during Spencer’s lifetime in relation to their work. Dr Sarah Turner (Deputy Director for Research at the Paul Mellon Centre) and Dr Sam Rose (Lecturer at the University of St Andrews) will give the keynote addresses.

Read more... 

Click HERE to book your place. 

Image: Stanley Spencer, Self-portrait, Adelaide Road, 1939, oil on canvas. Private collection, courtesy Hazlitt Holland-Hibbert © The Estate of Stanley Spencer / Bridgeman Images.

Exhibition kindly supported by the Audrey & Stanley Burton 1960 Charitable Trust and the Stanley Spencer Exhibition Circle. Grand Central Rail are our travel partners for the year. 

Related Content