Stanley Spencer (1891–1959) is perhaps best known for his mystical biblical scenes and candid self-portraits, but it was his magnificent paintings of gardens, houses and landscapes, set in the small alleys and overgrown backyards of his home village of Cookham, which proved more popular during his lifetime. Published to accompany an exhibition at Compton Verney, Warwickshire, Stanley Spencer and the English Garden is the first to focus specifically on Spencer’s landscape paintings, and to consider them as a group, rather than as punctuation marks between the figure paintings. The artist’s depictions of suburban environments are examined in the context of the rapid urbanization that took place in the English countryside between the two world wars, and the enduring English obsession with gardens.
This enlightening account of Spencer’s landscape paintings opens with an overview of the artist’s life and career by Duncan Robinson. This is followed by a comprehensive discussion of his garden paintings and their reception by Keith Bell. Next, Martin Postle considers depictions of the English garden, from Allingham to Spencer, while Jeremy Gould provides a comprehensive survey of landscapes and gardens during the interwar years. Finally, Steven Parissien considers Spencer’s use of architecture in his landscape paintings.