Stanley Spencer and Cookham Commons

Having been born and raised in the village of Cookham, the works of artist Stanley Spencer encapsulate the rural idyll of his local surroundings.

Early life

Stanley Spencer was born at Fernlea on Cookham High Street on 30 June 1891 and spent his childhood exploring the surrounding woods and meadows and enjoying country life.
 
By 1908, Spencer was studying at the Slade School of Fine Art in London, the premier art school in the country. He first exhibited his work in 1912 but, like so many young men, the events of the First World War were soon to shape his life.
 

Off to war

Enlisting in 1915 as a medic, Spencer later became an official war artist, painting notable works such as 'Travoys with Wounded Soldiers' now in the Imperial War Museum.
 
Perhaps his greatest war work is the Sandham Memorial Chapel at Burghclere, commissioned to honour the 'forgotten dead' of the First World War, who were not remembered on any official memorials.
 
The 19 large-scale murals were inspired by Spencer’s own experiences of the war and are peppered with personal and unexpected details.
 
 

Cookham takes centre stage

After the war, Spencer married and was drawn back to the sleepy village of Cookham. He referred to Cookham as "a village in Heaven" and became known for his paintings depicting biblical scenes occurring as if taking place in the village.
 
Everyday life here was captured in his pictures; cows ambling across the Moor, boatyards on the Thames banks and the hazy meadows that surround the villages. Standing on the causeway over the Moor today gives a view towards the village that hasn’t changed since being captured by Spencer in his painting ‘Cookham Moor’.
 

Fame but no fortune

During his lifetime, Stanley Spencer was elected an Associate of the Royal Academy (1932), awarded a CBE (1950) and knighted shortly before his death in 1959. Financial pressures meant that Spencer had to keep painting and so he remained familiar sight wandering the lanes of Cookham, seeking inspiration, whilst pushing his canvas and easel in an old pram.
 
Key paintings - Cookham Moor, Cows at Cookham, The Magnolia Tree, View From Cookham Bridge, Swan Upping At Cookham, Patricia at Cockmarsh Hill
" I like to take my thoughts for a walk and marry them to someplace in Cookham"
- Stanley Spencer