The Cookham Brotherhood

28 March - 3 November 2024
Open daily 10.30 to 4.00

A unique exhibition of paintings by both Stanley Spencer and his brother Gilbert.

The exhibition explores Gilbert Spencer’s identity as an artist, with loans from private collections as well as Tate. It also features comparative works by Stanley , which demonstrate the brothers’ unified vision, and also their rivalry. Stanley considered Gilbert the more accomplished landscape artist, which may explain his reticence to engage with that practice later in life.

Gilbert (1892-1979) and Stanley (1891-1958) Spencer were born one year and four days apart and brought up in Cookham almost as twins. They lived in an unconventional but cultivated household, the rhythm of each life mirroring the other. For both of them music, religion and nature were a common language. Their sense of awe at the natural world was in many ways a very Victorian discipline, for that was the era from which they emerged as adults, stumbling into the twentieth century – an era of war and huge social and economic change.

Stanley wrote to Gilbert that ‘Cookham was for you as it was for me. We both had identical sympathies and a different sort of approach.’ For both, Cookham had all they needed, with commons, backwaters, Cliveden Woods and other ‘mysterious spaces.’ Whilst Stanley became more concerned with the metaphysical, religious otherworldliness of their home village, Gilbert – more ‘of the people’ than his brother – was more practically minded. Although not immune to the mysteries of Cookham, his early childhood was spent making models of animals, carts and wagons made from scraps of wood and leather at the dining room of their home, Fernlea. Cookham was, in Gilbert’s words, the ‘backdrop to all that followed. These early sculptural explorations culminated in one of his masterpieces , A Cotswold Farm (Tate), one of the highlights of the exhibition.

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Stanley Spencer Gallery

High Street, Cookham, Berkshire, SL6 9SJ
01628 810223

Opening times

Winter Opening hours

10th November 2022 - 26th March 2023

Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday





Visitor information

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