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Patron Saints: Collecting Stanley Spencer

Patron Saints: Collecting Stanley Spencer


Stanley Spencer’s patrons have never before been studied collectively. Drawing on archival research and conversations with Spencer’s family and descendants of patrons, this exciting new publication looks at how collecting habits were affected by war and economic change, and how - even though Spencer was truly idiosyncratic - his patrons influenced the man and his art.


Patron Saints: Collecting Stanley Spencer is a revealing new exhibition at the renowned Stanley Spencer Gallery in Cookham – Spencer’s spiritual home and major source of inspiration. The exhibition draws together a spectacular collection of loans, including The Centurion’s Servant (Tate); Love on the Moor (Fitzwilliam); John Donne Arriving in Heaven, (Fitzwilliam) and one work not seen in the public domain in over 50 years.


The exhibition and catalogue examine the often complex relationships between Spencer and his patrons and what drove them to collect his work. Spencer was a single-minded genius, but the influence of his patrons on his painting is far greater than has hitherto been realised.


At the turn of the century, collecting art was no longer the preserve of the aristocracy and the upper classes, but Spencer’s art appealed to a broad spectrum of art lovers, fellow artists, businessmen and politicians. Many of his patrons lived in Cookham, where he lived and found artistic inspiration, and many of his paintings were influenced by his spiritual feelings for that place. His idiosyncratic and deeply personal approach gave him a wide and enduring appeal, and he was patronised by some of the most important cultural figures and taste-makers of that time.


Curator Amanda Bradley comments, “Behind Stanley Spencer, one of the greatest Modern British artists, were a group of individuals who enabled his very existence – both artistically and emotionally. They were not wildly rich, but they were powerful, cultivated, intellectual and artistic. Some bought on spec, others were true patrons, giving him the freedom to fulfil his artistic genius. Most fostered long-lived relationships with the artist, influencing his life and work more than has hitherto been realised. These were the patron saints.”


Patron Saints: Collecting Stanley Spencer explores the emergence of Spencer as an artistic personality, looking at those who helped him and why he – and his popularity – was a product of the zeitgeist (first half of the twentieth century) characterised by social and economic anxiety.


Amanda Bradley is an independent art historian and Trustee of the Stanley Spencer Gallery. She co-curated Stanley Spencer: Heaven in a Hell of War, and has published extensively on Spencer’s work at Burghclere.

  • Amanda Bradley

    Patron Saints: Collecting Stanley Spencer

    By Amanda Bradley

    With contributions from Susanna Avery-Quash and Ann Danks

    29 March 2018

    ISBN: 978 1 911300 43 4

    Paperback, 237 x 194 mm

    72 pages, 70 colour illus.

  • Exhibition

    Stanley Spencer Gallery, Cookham

    29 March – 4 November 2018

  • In the press

    "[Stanley Spencer] was one of the most inspirational artists of the 20th century, a visionary who painted real village folk in grandiose biblical scenes, and the creator of the most important artistic first world war memorial in the UK." –Guardian 


    "Spencer's art appealed to a broad spectrum of collectors and Patron Saints examines his relationship with his patrons [who] influenced his life and work more than has previously been released ... wonderful." –Country Life 

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