Ebullient, vivid, larger than life, Daphne features in a remarkable series of drawings and paintings by Spencer inspired by their affair, many of which are on display here. Previously unrecorded material makes this new exhibition as refreshing as it is revealing

Daphne Charlton was a compelling character who professed to have ‘no inhibitions at all’.

She was eighteen years younger, and married when their affair began.

After divorce from his first wife and the fiasco of a failed second marriage, Stanley found a liveliness and spontaneity in Daphne that wasto be a great source of inspiration.

The famous Spencer Scrapbook drawings began at the outset of their affair and the artist was to keep them for reference for the rest of his life. Daphne features largely and we can see her going about everyday tasks from dressmaking to cutting Stanley’s nails and Fetching Shoes (on loan from a Private Collection).

The Woolshop 1939 (on loan from Tate) was the first painting to be derived from a Scrapbookdrawing. In the picture, the high-spirited, curvaceous Daphne, with a mane of fair hair, is buying wool, assisted by a diminutive Stanley. Spencer’s love of pattern and repeated motifs is seen in the bales of cloth on the shelves, and the convoluted skeins of wool that appear to take on a life of their own.

The Scrapbook drawing and painting are displayed together for the first time.

This exhibition also juxtaposes for the first time the decorative blouse, jaunty black hat and Chinese bowl (on loan from Burgh House & Hampstead Museum) with Spencer’s celebrated portrait of Daphne 1940 (on loan from Tate).

There is a brief encounter between Stanley, Daphne and Stanley’s first wife Hilda, in Village Life, Gloucestershire 1940 (on loan from The Cheltenham Trust and Cheltenham Borough Council); a Dig for Victory poster designed and signed by Spencer and Daphne; self-portraits by George and Daphne Charlton and more.

Gallery Trustee and renowned Spencer expert Carolyn Leder is the author of the exhibition catalogue (An Artistic Affair: Stanley Spencer and Daphne Charlton, fully illustrated, 64pp, price £8). She knew Daphne Charlton well, shared her confidences and much enjoyed her pithy turn of phrase.

When Daphne visited the Stanley Spencer Gallery in 1974 to see Village Life,Gloucestershire, she commented:

‘I seem to come to “life” in the Stanley Gallery (sic) surrounded by his works and experiences.’

The affair between Daphne and Stanley began in 1939 and lasted until 1941 but they remained in touch for the rest of his life. Exhilarating and exciting, this Artistic Affair is every bit as vibrant and vivid as the woman who inspired it.

Exhibition Highlights