Stanley Spencer (1891 – 1959) has recently been recognised by a wide general public, as well as by art historians, as probably the greatest English painter of the twentieth century.
His strange and thrilling settings of biblical and semi-biblical scenes, his grippingly realist portraits, his intense English landscapes, hang in pride of place in our national collections and fetch ever-escalating prices at auction. Although there have been many books about Spencer, Pople's biography is the first to give a thoroughly convincing and coherent account of the life and psyche of the man who produced these extraordinary pictures. Pople has not only had the co-operation of Spencer's daughters and remaining friends' he has had unrestricted access to the artist's letters, diaries and other writings, and has spent ten years unravelling the familiar but so often impenetrable mysteries we see on the canvas. His analysis demonstrates that there never was as artist for whom life and art were so much of a piece, and that without understanding Spencer's doings and circumstances, we have no hope of understanding his paintings.