Museum Highlight

Gilbert Spencer

This painting was chosen as our Museum Highlight on the RGA website in the weeks running up to the 100th Anniversary of Armistice as an appropriate tribute and painting for reflection. [Highlighted: Oct 2018]

Soldiers Relaxing, Hook End Farm,
Basildon, Berkshire

by Gilbert Spencer (1892–1979)

Oil on canvas
58cm x 85cm
Date: about 1940

RGA member: 1938–1942
Life member: 1953–1979

Reading Museum Accession Number
REDMG : 1983.221.1

Gilbert Spencer RA (1892–1979) was a painter of landscapes, portraits and murals and worked as a teacher in various leading art schools. Working in a style similar to his older brother Stanley, in both oils and watercolour, he has often been overshadowed by his brother who said that Gilbert “was the better draftsman”. Although Soldiers Relaxing, Hook End Farm, Basildon, Berkshire was not exhibited with the RGA, like this work, his home Tree Cottage in Upper Basildon and surroundings were often used in the subject matter for his work. Gilbert became a member of the Reading Guild of Artists in 1938 along with his wife Ursula, a former student of his. Both exhibited that year, Gilbert with an oil painting Burden’s Farm House, and Ursula with two works, A Cottage at Northdean and Farm Buildings. During WWII (1939–1945) Gilbert served in the Home Guard and worked as an Official War Artist.

Gilbert was made an Honorary Life Member of the RGA in 1953 and exhibited several more works during the 1950s reflecting his home.

In 1970 Gilbert Spencer was the assessor for the RGA’s newly founded Marie Dyson Award. His choice was ‘Nr Twyford’ an oil painting by Gilbert Adams, and from a grainy newspaper cutting we can see was a work very similar to The Cotswolds from Park Leys.

For more information about Gilbert Spencer visit

Soldiers Relaxing, Hook End Farm, Basildon, Berkshire was on display in the Sir John Madejski Art Gallery, Reading Museum as part of the Patrons and Donors: Reading’s Art And How it Got Here…

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