Paradise Regained: Stanley Spencer in the Aftermath of the First World War
2 April 2014 – 29 March 2015
Revealing how the artist's devastating experiences at war renewed the connection he had with his hometown.
It was with great reluctance that Stanley Spencer left Cookham to join the military in 1915. Having lived there since birth he had great affection for its rural scenery, which had inspired many of his pre-War artworks.
Initially joining the Royal Army Medical Corps and eventually serving in the front line in Macedonia, he was deeply affected by his time as a soldier and proclaimed, 'it is not proper or sensible to expect to paint well after such experiences'. In fact, he was so concerned that he had lost his artistic vision, he refused an official war work commission.
On his return to Cookham he found his inspiration restored. Describing his homecoming 'as if I were performing a miracle every time I beheld the familiar spots', he began to produce paintings of the village and its people as they dealt with the aftermath of the First World War.
On loan from a private collection, Unveiling Cookham War Memorial captures a ceremony which would have had great importance for Spencer. His elder brother Sydney was killed in the last few months of the war and his name is carved on the memorial cross that can be seen in the centre of the picture.