Spencer paintings bought for Fitzwilliam

Five paintings by Stanley Spencer spanning over 20 years of the artist's career have been bought for the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge with Art Fund support.

The earliest painting, John Donne arriving in Heaven, was created in 1911 when Spencer was a 20-year-old student at the Slade School of Art, while the latest, a pair of paintings showing the building of the Tower of Babel, were created in 1933 after Spencer was approached to paint two decorative panels for the newly built Cambridge University Library.

While the library commission would ultimately go unrealised following budget issues, the works will now have a permanent home in Cambridge after being acquired for the Fitzwilliam.

The other two works in the group, Making a Red Cross and Scrubbing Clothes, were painted in 1919 after Spencer returned from war. Spencer had been commissioned to create war art by the Ministry of Information, but the studies were eventually used as the basis for his paintings in Sandham Memorial Chapel.

The works were acquired with support from the Art Fund through the government's Acceptance-in-Lieu scheme, with additional funding from the V&A Purchase Grant Fund and the Friends of the Fitzwilliam.

Stephen Deuchar, Director of the Art Fund, said: 'Stanley Spencer is one of the greatest British artists of the 20th century and it is with great pleasure that we support the Fitzwilliam Museum's acquisition of this group of exceptional works. It is another example of the benefits of the government's Acceptance-in-Lieu scheme to UK museums, galleries, and their visiting public.'

An extended feature on the paintings by Keith Bell, the world's pre-eminent authority on Spencer, is featured in the winter issue of Art Quarterly, which will be delivered to Art Fund members on 2 December. The paintings are now on display in Gallery 1 at the Fitzwilliam Museum, alongside other works by 20th-century British artists.

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