Art History: Sacred and Profane - The Art of Stanley Spencer

Ref: C3739980

This course will explore the extraordinary world of this most original twentieth century artist. Famous for portrayals of biblical events taking place in his native village of Cookham, Spencer was also an official war artist and a fine painter of landscapes and portraits, whose colourful personal life inspired a revolution in the painting of the nude.

Additional information about this course

First and last sessions only are 2.5 hours; remaining sessions 2 hours.

Course aim

This course aims to familiarise students with the life and work of the artist Stanley Spencer, through a detailed study of a varied selection of his fascinating paintings and drawings.

Who is the course for?

What topics will this course cover

This course will begin by looking at Spencer's early years and the influences that led to his artistic development. Works that demonstrate the artist's unique spiritual vision will be studied and discussed in detail. The large scale art inspired by Spencer's wartime experiences will be explored, including The Sandham Memorial Chapel at Burghclere and the Shipbuilding on the Clyde paintings. Spencer's portrayals of the women in his life will be examined in the context of his reputation and times. The controversies and triumphs of his career and the paintings that contributed to them will also be considered alongside the beautifully observed landscapes and portraits which funded his artistic endeavours. This course may culminate with a visit to the Stanley Spencer Gallery in Cookham and a walk around the locations in the village that so inspired this most intriguing of artists (if students wish).

What will it be like?

WEA classes are friendly and supportive. You will be encouraged to work together with your fellow students and tutor. You will be asked to share your ideas and views in the class and work with the group to give and accept feedback in a supportive environment. The WEA tutor will use a range of different teaching and learning methods and encourage you to be actively involved in your learning. You may be asked to undertake work to support your course outside of your class.

By the end of the course I should be able to:

1. Describe briefly the range of artistic output of Stanley Spencer. 2. Identify two or more influences that contributed to the subject matter of his paintings. 3. Examine and discuss 'The Resurrection, Cookham' (1924-6). 4. Identify and describe some of the images resulting from Spencer's wartime experiences. 5. Recognise some of the locations at which Spencer painted in Cookham.

How will I know I'm making progress?

Through Individual Learning Plans and one to one discussion if desired, class discussion and question and answer.

What else do I need to know, do or bring?

No prior knowledge or preparation is necessary. The proposed trip to The Stanley Spencer Gallery in Cookham would cost £5 (£4 concessions) entrance fee - payable on the day.

Reading and information sources

No reading or preparation is necessary prior to the course. The tutor will bring relevant books to the sessions and a reading list will be identified and provided for those who wish to read more about the artist.

What could the course lead to?

Students may wish to visit The Sandham Memorial Chapel at Burghclere and other exhibitions and galleries displaying Spencer works (including Tate Britain). Details of current Spencer exhibitions will be given. They may be inspired to take further courses covering the history of Twentieth Century British Art.

Download full course outline

Art History: Sacred and Profane - The Art of Stanley Spencer Course Outline


You can if you meet all of the following requirements:

  • are paying the standard fee or are on any of the qualifying benefits
  • are paying with a credit/debit card or are not paying a fee because of a qualifying benefit
  • have a valid email address
  • have been resident in the UK, EU or EEA for the last 3 years
  • are aged 19 years or older on 1st September 2016
  • have read and accept the standard terms and conditions
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