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Observations placeholder

Spencer, Stanley - Portraits 02



Type of Spiritual Experience


Spencer’s pursuit of Preece, despite her lesbian inclinations, has caused considerable confusion over the years.  Spencer knew Preece was a lesbian as she lived openly with her lover Dorothy Hepworth.  But Preece seduced him and Spencer was always on the lookout for new material on which he could expand his artistic inspiration.  Married love had run its course as a source of inspiration, although Stanley still loved Hilda, and Preece offered something new – unmarried illicit love [or so he thought].  Spencer had very strong willpower, and a sense of idealism when it came to sex and there is the real possibility that Preece may have tempted him sorely, but not actually let him taste the forbidden fruit before they were married.

Stanley Spencer and Patricia Preece outside Maidenhead Registry Office on the day of their wedding, accompanied by Dorothy Hepworth and best man, Jas Wood


The Art and Vision of Stanley Spencer - Kenneth Pople

Stanley's thinking applied equally to situations - physical or emotional - in which he found himself. His first instinct on meeting a new situation was to test its implications for his artistic integrity. Would it further his creativity or frustrate it?

The circumspection showed up in his personality as fastidious restraint and as a disregard for the shallow or the excitedly fashionable.

This was particularly so of his reaction in his earlier years to his normal male sexual urges, about which his studiously chaste approach- he remained celibate until his thirties-  contrasted with that of less inhibited colleagues ………….

Stanley later confessed his boyhood guilt about defying Victorian prohibitions and yielding to masturbation, his woeful habits as he called them, perhaps for their physicality but also because they dredged up fantasy associations which seemed to him to have no relevance to the stringency of his thinking……………………..

Although he stumbled across puzzles in his early thinking, he had been able to move forward freely in his Cookham paradise in an adolescent aura of creative elation. When the perils at last came, he felt so damaged by the struggles of coping with them that he became convinced he could never again recapture the artistic purity of his early work.

The first arrived in 1914 with the outbreak of the Great War. In studying Stanley's war experiences and paintings it is important to remember that for him struggle did not refer to physical distress. For him such suffering was incidental and even unimportant when compared with the emotional frustration of being unable to use his art to connect his down-to-earth to his up-in-heaven. That frustration was for him a form of hell.

The Great War over, an equally formidable disturber of the peace, as Stanley called these perils, arrived - the demands of adult sexuality. For years he lived in a frenzy of anxiety as to whether its uncontrollable associations would damage the cogency of his up-in-heaven thought


A description of the experience

The source of the experience

Spencer, Stanley

Concepts, symbols and science items



Science Items

Activities and commonsteps