Born in Cookham, England, June 30, 1891, Stanley Spencer was the tenth child of Annie and William Spencer. Throughout his life, Spencer returned to Cookham, a small, rural village by the Thames, as his home and sometimes for inspiration for paintings.
Entering the Slade School (part of the University College London) at the age of 17, Spencer, with contemporaries, C. R. W. Nevinson, Mark Gertler, Paul Nash, and William Bloomberg, developed a distinctive style that earned them the soubriquet “neo-primitive.” The others nicknamed Spencer “Cookham” because of his devotion to his home town.
Spencer's modernistic style sometimes ran counter to the traditionalist painting style prevalent during his time. In his lifetime, he painted over 450 pictures and several murals, many of which reflected his life experiences.
In World War I, Spencer volunteered to join the Royal Army Medical Corps and worked as a nurse at the Beaufort Hospital in Bristol. In 1916, he was sent to Salonika, a port in Macedonia, to be part of the 68th Field Ambulances. Here he was inspired to paint Travoys Arriving with Wounded at a Dressing Station at SMOL, Macedonia. Spencer furthered his reputation as a war artist by painting murals of military life for the Sandham Memorial Chapel in Hampshire and a Giotto's Arena Chapel in Padua, Italy. He continued to paint war scenes during World War II.
Spencer's post-war art combined his devotion to Cookham with New Testament religious imagery. Two of his best known works during this time were The Resurrection, Cookham and Christ Carrying a Cross.
Spencer's personal life was also a focus of his work. His first marriage, in 1925, to Hilda Carline, lasted until 1937. He then married Patricia Preece, who had been involved with sculptor Dorothy Hepworth. His relationship with Preece was unconventional but yielded several paintings, including The Leg of Mutton Nude.
Spencer became an associate of the Royal Academy in 1932. A conflict of interest led to his resignation in 1935, but he rejoined in 1950. In 1958, Spencer was awarded a knighthood from Southampton University. Sir Stanley Spencer died in 1959.