Gilbert Spencer, R.A. 1892 - 1979
An Artist's Progress
Photo: R.A./John Hammond
© Royal Academy of Arts, London
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An Artist's Progress, 1959
Oil on canvas, 2692 X 5639 mm
Commissioned from Gilbert Spencer, R.A., 1958
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In 1958 Sir Charles Wheeler, President of the Royal Academy, invited Spencer to paint a mural for the R.A. restaurant. The result was 'An Artist's Progress', which charts Spencer's rite of passage from his Cookham childhood (left) to the Slade School of Art and finally to his election to the Royal Academy (right).

When exhibited at the Royal Academy summer exhibition in 1959, this work was not very well received; one critic reviewed it under the heading 'The Worst Picture of the Year' while another argued that 'If anything was calculated to warn youngsters against a career in art, this should surely achieve it.'

Gilbert Spencer (1892-1979) painted portraits, genre scenes and murals but was chiefly a landscape artist. Born at Cookham, Berkshire thirteen months after his brother, the painter Stanley Spencer RA, he went on to study at Camberwell School of Arts and Crafts, the Royal College of Art and the Slade School of Fine Art. He had his first one-man show at the Goupil Gallery in 1923. From 1940-1943 he was appointed an official war artist. Spencer taught at the Royal College of Art and was Head of Painting both at Glasgow School of Art and Camberwell. He published the biography of his brother, Stanley Spencer in 1961 and his own autobiography Memoirs of a Painter in 1974.

Although principally a landscape painter Gilbert was commissioned to paint murals for Holywell Manor, Balliol College, Oxford (1936) and 'The Scholar Gipsy' for the students' union of University College, London (ca. 1956-1958).

This work is on display in the Royal Academy Restaurant.