Spencer's Earthly Paradise

Stanley Spencer Gallery

4 February – 4 November 2012

Free with National Art Pass (standard entry charge is £5)

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The Stanley Spencer Gallery in Cookham is celebrating its 50th anniversary with a show of the greatest works from its collection and some important loans.

Stanley Spencer, St Francis and the Birds, 1935

With more than 50 pictures, the exhibition contains many of the artists most celebrated religious, landscape and subject works, and a series of self portraits spanning his career.The title of the exhibition comes from Spencer's own words, used to describe his beloved home town: 'When I left the Slade and went back to Cookham I entered a kind of earthly paradise.'

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The artist's first and last self portraits, painted at a distance of 45 years, will both be on show, on loan from Tate. The latter was painted in 1959, when the artist knew that he was dying. St Francis and the Birds (1935) and The Scarecrow (1934) will hang side by side, in reference to the Royal Academy's famous decision to accept the latter and not the former, which led to Spencer's resignation and a storm of media coverage.

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