Midlife crisis
Country Life UK|October 14, 2020
Midlife crisis
Spencer’s love life was complicated and ultimately doomed, but it produced some remarkable paintings, reveals Tim Richardson
Tim Richardson

STANLEY SPENCER (1891–1959) was married twice. Nothing unusual about that. The problem for Spencer was that he wanted to be married to both women at the same time.

The conventional version of the story goes like this. In 1929, after four years of marriage to Hilda (neé Carline) and two children, Spencer suddenly fell under the spell of Patricia Preece. She seemed urbane, worldly and positively glamorous next to Hilda, whose attractions were intense idealism and religious devotion— although, as a Christian Scientist, she was not quite in alignment with Spencer, the physical metaphysical. The two women, both also artists, offered Spencer different kinds of satisfaction and in his naivety—or selfishness— he wanted it all.

The outcome was predictable enough in that he lost both women. What is more, it transpired that he had apparently been duped: Patricia was already living with someone (the artist Dorothy Hepworth) and was seemingly intent only on taking his money and using his reputation to further her own artistic ambitions. She never lived with Spencer and, after a short time, moved him out of his large house in Cookham and into a shed/ studio in the garden. Ultimately, he was ousted even from the shed, spending the years 1938–39 in a bedsit in Swiss Cottage.


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October 14, 2020