The Cookham Brotherhood | The Art of Gilbert and Stanley Spencer


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

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A Cotswold Farm, 1930-1. Gilbert Spencer.
Tate, Presented by the Trustees of the Chantrey Bequest 1932 ©Tate


The Cookham Brotherhood: The Art of Gilbert and Stanley Spencer promises a unique journey into the artistic minds of Stanley Spencer and his brother, Gilbert.

The exhibition is a celebration of the profound influence that Cookham had on the artistic expression of the Spencer brothers. The Cookham Brotherhood, a term coined to encapsulate their close bond and shared dedication to art, serves as the focal point of this showcase. Visitors will be immersed in the idyllic landscapes, intimate portraits, and thought-provoking narratives that define the brothers’ collective legacy.

According to the twentieth-century critic Eric Newton, Gilbert (1892-1959) and Stanley (1891-1958) Spencer were more than brothers: they were ‘affinities’. Born one year and four weeks apart, they were brought up in Cookham almost as twins. They lived in an unconventional but cultivated household, the rhythm of each life mirroring the other. For both of them music, religion and nature were a common language. Their sense of awe at the natural world was in many ways a very Victorian discipline, for that was the era from which they emerged as adults, stumbling into the twentieth century – an era of war and huge social and economic change.

Stanley wrote to Gilbert that ‘Cookham was for you as it was for me. We both had identical sympathies and a different sort of approach.’ For both, Cookham had all they needed, with commons, backwaters, Cliveden Woods and other ‘mysterious spaces.’ Whilst Stanley became more concerned with the metaphysical, religious otherworldliness of their home village, Gilbert – more ‘of the people’ than his brother – was more practically minded. Although not immune to the mysteries of Cookham, his early childhood was spent making models of animals, carts and wagons made from scraps of wood and leather at the dining room of their home, Fernlea. Cookham was, in Gilbert’s words, the ‘backdrop to all that followed. These early sculptural explorations culminated in one of his masterpieces, A Cotswold Farm (Tate), which will be one of the highlights of the exhibition.

The exhibition will explore Gilbert Spencer’s identity as an artist, with major loans from private collections as well as Tate. It will also feature comparative works by Stanley from the Stanley Spencer Gallery's collection, which demonstrate the brothers’ unified vision, and also their rivalry. Stanley considered Gilbert the more accomplished landscape artist, which may explain his reticence to engage with that practice later in life. The two brothers also fought for the affections of the artist Hilda Carline (1889-1950), the personable Gilbert ultimately losing out to the loquacious otherworldliness of his brother, who married her in 1925 - although Gilbert did accompany them on honeymoon. Stanley’s haunting portrait, Hilda with Hair Down (Stanley Spencer Gallery), on show in the exhibition, reveals the psychological complexity of the sitter, and of her relationship with Stanley.

The exhibition coincides with the publication of Gilbert Spencer. The Life and Work of a Very English Artist (Yale, by Paul Gough with contributions by Sacha Llewellyn and Amanda Bradley Petitgas).

Amanda Bradley Petitgas, curator and author, said: Gilbert Spencer's artistic vision was as singular as his brother's, the seeds of which were sown in Cookham - a mystical place for both brothers. It is wonderful to think of Gilbert as a boy sitting at the dining room table, making models of wagons and carts out of scraps of leather. It was an activity which led to one of his masterpieces some thirty years later - A Cotswold Farm. It is an imaginative tour de force, done entirely from memory, and a mature vision of a childhood passion nurtured in Cookham.

Book Tickets

Guide Prices

Ticket TypeTicket Tariff
Adult ticket£7.00 per ticket
Age 18 to 25 years£3.50 per ticket
Art Fund£3.50 per ticket
Museum Association£3.50 per ticket
RBWM Advantage Card£3.50 per ticket

Free Entry for: Friends of the Gallery, Carers, Accompanied Children (under 18)



  • 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

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

Open (28 Mar 2024 - 3 Nov 2024)
Monday - Sunday10:30 - 16:30

* Last entry 16:00

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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.

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