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 Augustus Spencer  (1860 - 1924)

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Lived/Active: United Kingdom      Known for: rural landscape, cottages

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An example of work by Augustus Spencer
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This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Please note: Artists not classified as American in our database may have limited biographical data compared to the extensive information about American artists.

A landscape painter and art teacher, he was born on April 18, 1860 at Silsden in Yorkshire. 

Spencer studied at Keighley School of Art, and at the R.C.A. from 1881.  He was Headmaster of the Coalbrookdale School of Art from 1885, Headmaster of Leicester School of Art from 1888, and Principal of the R.C.A. 1900-1920.  At his tenure at the Royal Academy of Art he made a great deal of changes.  He met with much resistance but had some moderate success in changing the art theory and teaching of the times.  He aligned himself with Ruskin's school of thought toward art. 

He was a member of The Aireville Group an officially recognized body of talent which thrived during the period encompassing the Arts & Crafts movement.  Many of the artists were inspired by Thomas Clifton who was the Head of the Keighley School of Art from 1889.  Many of the artists were extremely talented and went on to study at the Royal College of Art, the Royal Academy and the Slade and included, Augustus Spencer, Silsden, Arthur Reginald Smith, Skipton, Fred C Jones, Bradford and Bingley sculptor Herman Cawthra. 

Augustus Spencer became the principal of the Royal College and there is a stained glass window in his honor in Silsden Parish Church. Sir Swire Smith, an MP in the late 1800's, owned a mill in Silsden at which a young Augustus Spencer, the son of a blacksmith, worked part time.  Smith caught Spencer painting butterflies and thought him to have talent, subsequently, he offered to pay his fees at the Keighley School of Art.  Spencer came for a family of musicians as well.  He was a good pupil and went on the become a good teacher and was appointed in 1885 to the headship of the School of Arts at Coalbrookdale, known as the cradle of England's industrial revolution. From there he moved three years latter to the headship of the Leicester School of Art before becoming Principal of the RCA ( Royal Academy of Arts.)  The School of Design's mission was that of training the designers for industry, although in reality it became a finishing school for fine artists and a training school for art teachers and principals.  By 1909 the industrial design movements in Germany and several other countries were more successful at integrating artist into industry than England.  That year Augustus Spencer reported to the Board of Education that " It is a well-known fact that trade is leaving the country and falling into the hands of the Germans and Dutch".  Other Instructors at the RCA demanded that industrial art instruction at the college and throughout the country should be made more compatible with industrial requirements  Its fair to say that Spencer was indeed an important contributor to art and art teachings.

Augustus Spencer died on  October 3, 1924.

Information courtesy of Michael Parks

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