About the artist:
One of eight sons born to Anne Roberts Spencer and John Spencer, a Yorkshire blacksmith and coal merchant who also was an accomplished musician who played violin and viola and headed a family group known as the Spencer’s String Band, Augustus Spencer was born in Silsden, Yorkshire on April 18, 1860. Spencer became a leading figure in late 19th century art theory, art administration and landscape painting in the United Kingdom. Augustus Spencer began his education as a half-time pupil at the Keigley Free Grammar School. He spent the rest of the day working at a Mill owned by a Squire Smith, a local aristocrat, who was impressed by Spencer’s untrained talent, underwrote Spencer’s evening art class tuition at the Keighley Art School in 1880. Then, with Smith’s encouragement and support, Spencer won a scholarship to the Royal College of Art in South Kensington a year later in 1881 where he studied both the theory of art education and studio painting until 1885, when he was appointed Art Master of the School of Arts at Coalbrookdale, Shropshire. In 1888 he accepted the position of Headmaster of the Leicester School of Art where he served for twelve years during which he reorganized the curriculum of its art education classes. From 1900 until 1920, Spencer served as an Administrator at the Royal College of Art, where he introduced the controversial educational theories of John Ruskin and where he embraced the idioms of the growing Arts and Crafts movement in English art at a time when the English system was beginning to train both artists, teachers of art, and designers needed for the growing Industrial Revolution in England. Spencer was also a leading member of the critically recognized Aireville Group of working artists who were adapting the theories and practices of influential painter, Thomas Clifton, to their art. The group also included, among other artists, Arthur Reginald Smith, Fred C. Jones and sculptor, Herman Cawthra. Many artists from this group went on to teach and lecture about new British art at England’s top academies including the Slade School of Art and the Royal Academy. While Spencer worked in stained glass, watercolor, charcoal and mixed media, he was a prolific and popular painter, who primarily specialized in romantic and colorful views of the Yorkshire and Sussex countryside, executed in a detailed and realistic style that captured the picturesque cottages, the terrain, the lakes and rivers, as well as the dramatic clouds and atmosphere of these sections of the United Kingdom. Augustus Spencer died on October 3, 1924. He is buried with his parents and some of his brothers and their family members in the family plot in the churchyard of St. James Church, Silsden. Even though Spencer’s revolutionary educational reforms that united industrial design and the fine arts did not last in the curriculum of elite British art schools a decade after World War I, Spencer is universally considered an important contributor to the growth of the synergy between the fine and applied arts throughout the United Kingdom and the British Empire. Augustus Spencer is treated with accurate text and photographs in the vetted on-line website, “Not Just Hockney” at http://www.notjusthockney.info/spencer-augustus/ The authoritative site was created and is edited by Colin Neville.