He was one of the most inspirational artists of the 20th century, a visionary who painted real village folk in grandiose biblical scenes, and the creator of the most important artistic first world war memorial in the UK.

But there were periods when Stanley Spencer was close to penury as the result of his unconventional personal life and the apparent avarice of his second wife. The acclaimed artist relied on patrons, who supported him by buying his paintings and commissioning works, but also by housing and feeding him, and offering him emotional and intellectual sustenance.

Now an exhibition entitled Patron Saints brings together many of the works Spencer’s benefactors bought, in the Stanley Spencer Gallery in the artist’s home village of Cookham, Berkshire. Spencer had an almost spiritual attachment to Cookham, which inspired many of his paintings.

The 21 works in the new exhibition include Love on the Moor, a subversive celebration of free love which took 18 years to complete. It was first bought by Spencer’s lawyer, Wilfrid Evill, and has been loaned to the gallery by the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge. Read more