Stanley Spencer Gallery
High Street Cookham Berkshire SL6 9SJ
Celebrating its 50th anniversary in 2012, this lovely little gallery is an apt celebration of the art of Cookham's most famous son, Stanley Spencer (1891–1959), who spent most of his life in this picturesque village, and as a boy worshipped in the modest Wesleyan chapel that now houses his work. Many of Spencer's paintings fuse Christian imagery with scenes of riverside life, and the gallery is dominated by the huge, unfinished Christ Preaching at Cookham Regatta, with a boater-wearing Jesus regaling summer crowds from a Thames barge. Other paintings and sketches in the 130-strong collection depict, in exuberant detail, the foibles and personalities of Spencer's neighbours. It's accessible and richly scenic painting, and for the 50th anniversary exhibition, the gallery also has two of Spencer's best-known paintings on loan from the Tate – his self-portraits as a soulful 23-year old, and another painted when he was in his sixties, gimlet-eyed and grey-haired.