Mind and Mortality: Stanley Spencer’s Final Portraits


Stanley Spencer Gallery, Cookham High Street, Cookham, Maidenhead, Berkshire, SL6 9SJ

TripAdvisor Traveller Rating

TripAdvisor Traveller Rating - 189 reviews189 reviews

Add Mind and Mortality: Stanley Spencer’s Final Portraits to your Itinerary

Close window

Call direct on:

Tel01628 531092

Sir Stanley Spencer, Self-Portrait, oil on canvas, 1959 ©Tate Gallery


Stanley Spencer Gallery is delighted to present Mind and Mortality: Stanley Spencer’s Final Portraits. Comprised of 26 works, the exhibition spans fifty years from 1909 until the artist’s death on the eve of the 1960s and reveals not only the importance of portraiture to Spencer’s artistic practice, but also the intimacy and unflinching candour he brought to it.

Mind and Mortality, which includes works in oil, drawings, pen and inks and a single lithograph, is formed of three parts: Self-Portraits, Mind, Body and Spirit, and The People and Portraits of Spencer’s Final Years. The cornerstone of the exhibition is Spencer’s two final self-portraits, made when he was dying of cancer, displayed side by side for the first time. The first is a drawing in red conté which was recently acquired by Stanley Spencer Gallery. The other, on loan from Tate, London, is Spencer’s final self-portrait in oil paint. They were commissioned by a friend of artist, who rejected the drawing, probably because she found its unflinching gaze too uncomfortable.

The red conté drawing is the ultimate expression of Spencer’s talent in that it not only a true likeness, but also hints at the uneasy thoughts which must have been at the forefront of a dying man’s mind. The artist’s gaunt, weathered face is overwhelmed by the frame of his glasses. Yet the deep wrinkles of the forehead, the sagging flesh of his neck, and the grim, sloping downturn of the mouth are offset by a determination and strength found in his unflinching gaze.

The presentation also includes Spencer’s earliest known self-portrait from 1912, on loan from the Williamson Art Gallery and Museum Birkenhead, and a drawing of his brother, Gilbert, dated 1909, when Stanley was just seventeen and Gilbert sixteen.

In his final decade, Spencer was in high demand as a portrait painter, and in People and Portraits, the gallery has brought together fourteen works that showcase Spencer’s immense skill in painting and drawing portraits. They include a portrait of Dr Osmund Frank, one of the stars of the 1951 Royal Academy Summer Exhibition and described as a ‘Modern Holbein’ thanks to its meticulous rendition of Dr Frank’s fur robes. Spencer’s sitters were often the family and friends who offered him friendship and support. Notably amongst these is a portrait of Lathonia, the daughter of his Cookham GP Dr Vaudrey Mercer, who invited Spencer regularly to meals as his suffering from cancer worsened.

On loan from the Herbert Art Gallery and Museum, Coventry, is Spencer’s heart-breaking portrait of Priscilla Ashwanden, the daughter of a neighbouring family, who was dying of leukaemia aged just sixteen. Tragically, the finished portrait arrived at the family home the morning of her death. Priscilla’s diary, in which she describes her sittings with Spencer, will be displayed near her portrait.

The works united under the theme Mind, Body and Spirit help us to understand why Spencer’s portraits might at first appear unflattering, but often express his great love for the sitter. They include gems from Stanley Spencer’s Gallery’s standing collection, including the enormous, Christ Preaching at Cookham Regatta (1952—1959) that he was still working on when he died, The Angel, Cookham Churchyard (c.1936-1937) and Sarah Tubb and the Heavenly Visitors (1933), in which we see the sitter being comforted by angels after the appearance of Halley’s Comet in 1910. One of the works in Mind and Mortality is not by Spencer, but by his talented daughter Unity, who captured the likeness of her uncle Will in a style uncannily similar to her father’s.

Curator Amy Lim says, ‘We’re delighted to exhibit Spencer’s final two self-portraits side by side for the first time. They show off his immense skill as a portraitist and give us an insight into how he confronted his own mortality during his final struggle with cancer. Spencer’s portraits are often overlooked and visitors will have a chance to see for themselves why he was one of the most in-demand portrait painters of the post-war years.’

Book Tickets



  • Accessible Lift
  • All Areas Accessible to Disabled Visitors
  • Facilities for Visually Impaired Visitors - Large print guides, Gallery guide is available in large print.
  • Guide Dogs Permitted
  • Ramp/Level Access

Children & Infants

  • Babes in Arms
  • Children’s packs
  • Family Friendly, Children Welcome

COVID-19 Response

  • Capacity limit - Only 10 visitors allowed per time on a first come, first served basis
  • COVID-19 measures in place
  • Face mask essential (not provided)
  • Floors clearly marked for social distancing
  • Hand sanitizer available to visitors & staff
  • One way system

Establishment Features

  • Air conditioning throughout
  • All weather attraction
  • Gift shop
  • Guided tours by arrangement
  • Open on bank holidays
  • Special Opening for Groups by Arrangement

Parking & Transport

  • On street parking only
  • Railway station within 5 miles
  • Railway station within walking distance

Payment Methods

  • American Express accepted
  • Delta accepted
  • Groups Accepted - Essential to prebook.Pre-booking essential preferably Mon-Fri, mornings. Groups of 25 and over may be split NO GROUP RATES
  • Maestro
  • Maestro Accepted
  • MasterCard
  • MasterCard accepted
  • Max group size - 50
  • Min group size - 6
  • Open by appointment only - Extra Charge
  • Visa accepted

Provider Preferences

  • Indoor Attraction
  • No Smoking Attraction
  • Village Location

Tours and Demonstrations

  • Educational Visits Accepted
  • Guided Tours Available for Groups

Map & Directions

Opening Times

Sorry, this event has passed

What's Nearby

  1. French Brothers Ltd - Maidenhead to Windsor

    Cruise from Maidenhead to Windsor with French Brothers Boats.

    2.45 miles away
  2. Maidenhead Heritage Centre

    Fly a Spitfire simulator at this local museum which covers local history from the Romans…

    2.66 miles away
  1. Norden Farm Centre for the Arts

    Maidenhead’s only purpose built entertainment venue – offering gigs, comedy, films and…

    3.49 miles away
  2. Braywick Nature Centre

    Set on the edge of a stunning local nature reserve, Braywick Nature Centre offers…

    3.55 miles away
  3. Dorney Court

    Visit Dorney Court, one of the country's finest stately homes. Lived in by the Palmer…

    4.29 miles away
  4. On Deck Charter

    Skipper and Crewed Luxury Private Boat Charter. Join us On Deck for a completely…

    4.42 miles away
  5. Windsor & Maidenhead Boat Company

    Here at the Windsor & Maidenhead Boat Company, we like to make your day out one to…

    4.53 miles away
  6. Private Boat Hire Ltd

    Private Boat Hire operates luxury passenger boats from various locations between Windsor…

    5.44 miles away
  7. Waltham Place

    Waltham Place Estate has often been described as “the best kept secret in Berkshire” and…

    5.68 miles away
  8. Royal Windsor Racecourse

    Set on its own island and 165 acres of stunning Berkshire countryside, on the River…

    5.75 miles away
  9. Escape In 60 Windsor

    Escape in 60, Windsor offers three different escape room experiences. So, choose your…

    6.3 miles away
  10. Eton College's Museums and Galleries

    Eton College looks after thousands of historic, artistic and natural objects, and welcome…

    6.3 miles away
  11. Alexandra Gardens

    Alexandra Gardens is a pretty public garden near the River Thames in Windsor with…

    6.44 miles away
  12. Windsor & Eton Brewery

    Fancy sampling locally brewed beer? Then look no further than Windsor and Eton Brewery.

    6.47 miles away
  13. The Eton Walkway

    Situated just across the river from Windsor via a pedestrian footbridge, the town of Eton…

    6.62 miles away
Previous Next
Book Train Tickets


Stanley Spencer Gallery. © The Estate of  Spencer.  All Rights Reserved, 2015 / Bridgeman Art LibraryStanley Spencer Gallery, Windsor and MaidenheadThe Stanley Spencer Gallery is situated in the heart of Cookham, the picturesque ‘village in heaven’ where Spencer was born and painted for most of his life.

Don't Miss

Don't Miss

Don't Miss

Don't Miss

Don't Miss

Don't Miss

Don't Miss

Don't Miss