Stanley Spencer: A Biography

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9780002556644: Stanley Spencer: A Biography

Recently recognized as the greatest English painter of the 20th century, Stanley Spencer is at the forefront of the international art community with his unusual biblical and semi-biblical scenes, his gripping realist portraits, and his intense English landscapes. Kenneth Pople's coherent biography demonstrates the oneness of the artist's life with his art. Photos throughout.

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Review:

Painter Stanley Spencer is a biographer's dream: his art is intensely personal, reflecting real people and places from his life; the controversy surrounding his private life and work guaranteed a stream of contemporary accounts about both; moreover, he was an enthusiastic chronicler of his own intentions, leaving behind vast quantities of diaries, letters, and notes. Author Kenneth Pople has utilized the wealth of information about his subject to produce Stanley Spencer: A Biography, a scrupulously researched examination of the complicated artist. Though Spencer's art had fallen out of favor in the years following his death, Stanley, the award-winning play based on his life, has renewed public interest in the man and his work, making Pople's biography timely, indeed.

Stanley Spencer is divided into 47 chapters, each one concentrating on a specific painting, through which Pople attempts to illuminate a particular period of the artist's life. He is especially strong at analyzing the work itself, but less so at breathing life into the people who surrounded Spencer: his family, wives, mistresses, and friends. Nevertheless, Kenneth Pople has brought valuable new insights to the work of Stanley Spencer, a gift for which art lovers can be grateful.

Review:

Naïve, clumsy and essentially different from everyone else, "Stanley" can do no real wrong. He is set apart, in Pople's account, by the force of his genius and the demands of his art. This approach might have been illuminating, since it is above all Stanley we want to hear about. But because there is no critical distance between the biographer and the artist he portrays, the personage that forms under our eyes is genetically uncertain. Is this really Stanley or a hybrid of author and hero, a "Pople-Stanley"? -- The New York Times Book Review, John B. Judis

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