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Western art

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Christ in Cookham



Sir Stanley Spencer


30 Jun 1891 - 14 Dec 1959


Stanley Spencer's [religiosity] was marked by an almost mystical fervour. His understanding of Christianity had a pantheistic overlay that allowed for the incorporation of his own wilful and eccentric imaginings. Eroticism was an area of human experience to which Spencer's art gave uninhibited expression, though this incident-filled composition is comparatively chaste. A Christ of Romanesque solidity presides over workers, village worthies, children and most of the local football team. The setting is a cottage garden in Cookham, Spencer's rural birthplace which he habitually portrayed as an earthly paradise. Part of a series of canvases executed for the Church Home, 'Christ in Cookham' recalls the fastidious images of the Pre-Raphaelites. In this collection it can be usefully compared with Ford Madox Brown's 'Chaucer at the court of Edward III', painted a century earlier. [Spencer] saw in the structures of English society the worldly articulation of a godly plan.

AGNSW Handbook, 1999.

This work is from the series 'Pentecost Last Judgement' intended for the Church-House.


Other Title

Christ Calling the Apostles



Media category


Materials used

oil on canvas


127.0 x 205.7 cm stretcher; 141.5 x 220.8 x 7.5 cm frame

Signature & date

Not signed. Not dated.


Watson Bequest Fund 1952


Not on display

Accession number


Artist information

Sir Stanley Spencer

Works in the collection


Shown in 6 exhibitions

Exhibition history


Arthur Tooth & Sons Ltd, London/England, Purchased by the AGNSW from Arthur Tooth & Sons 1952

Referenced in 15 publications


Art Gallery of New South Wales, Art Gallery of New South Wales picturebook, Sydney, 1972, 54 (colour illus.).

Keith Bell, Stanley Spencer - a complete catalogue of the paintings, London, 1992, 210-211 (illus.). 378

René Free, Art Gallery of New South Wales handbook, 'European', pg. 36-56, Sydney, 1988, 55.

Renée Free, AGNSW Collections, 'The Western Heritage, Renaissance to Twentieth Century', pg. 108-172, Sydney, 1994, 161 (colour illus.).

Renée Free, Art Gallery of New South Wales catalogue of British paintings, Sydney, 1987, 183 (illus.).

Ted Gott, Laurie Benson and Sophie Matthiesson, Modern Britain 1900-1960, Melbourne, 2007, 157 (colour illus.).

Kitty Hauser, Stanley Spencer, 'Cookham', pg.30-45, London, 2001, 44, 45 (colour illus.). fig. 31

Bruce James, Art Gallery of New South Wales handbook, 'Western Collection: Paintings and Sculpture', pg. 17-77, Sydney, 1999, 63 (colour illus.).

Anne Kirker and Peter Tomory, British painting 1800–1990 in Australian and New Zealand public collections, Sydney, 1997, 27 (colour illus.), 163. 2060

Mary Kisler and Justin Paton (Curators), Everyday Miracles: the art of Stanley Spencer, Dunedin, 2003, cover (colour illus.), 68, 69 (colour illus.). no catalogue numbers

Fiona MacCarthy, Stanley Spencer: an English vision, New Haven, 1997, (colour illus.). 56

Kenneth Pople, Stanley Spencer: a biography, London, 1991, 473.

Mary Sorrell, The Studio, 'The loved world of Stanley Spencer', pg.33-39, London, Feb 1954, 33 (illus.).

Adelaide Festival of Arts 1966: special exhibitions at the National Gallery of South Australia, 'Sir Stanley Spencer', Adelaide, 1966. 20

The Adelaide Festival of Arts 1962: Special exhibitions at the National Gallery of South Australia, 'Contemporary Religious Art', Adelaide, 1962. 11