A STUNNING, larger than life self portrait of one of Britain’s best-loved 20th century painters forms the centrepiece of a new exhibition in the artist’s famous hometown.

The Stanley Spencer Gallery’s Winter Exhibition begins on November 6 and continues the theme of his recovery from traumatic First World War experiences that inspired some of his finest work.

Often set in his hometown of Cookham, the haunting works show the shift in Spencer’s outlook and the exhibition is framed around two very different self-portraits from before and after the conflict.

The first of these, on loan to the Stanley Spencer Gallery from the Tate, has been selected by experts at Time-Out London as one of their top 100 London-based paintings.

The gallery’s Shez Courtenay-Smith said: "Sir Stanley Spencer was one of the greatest and most original British painters of the 20th century.

"His work combines the realism of everyday life with visionary insights, and offers joyous and vivid fusions of the ordinary with the extraordinary and the earthly with the spiritual.

"The Winter Exhibition at the Stanley Spencer Gallery is an exciting opportunity to explore, or further explore, Spencer’s dazzling skill, his personal idiosyncrasies, the intriguing contradictions of his life and the breadth of his unique talent."

Other paintings on show include ‘The Bridge’ depicting biblical scenes on Cookham Bridge and two 1923 studies for the Sandham Memorial Chapel at Burghclere, honouring the ‘forgotten dead’ of the First World War.

The Stanley Spencer Gallery in Cookham High Street, was established in 1962 and refurbished in 2007 to include video presentations to accompany each exhibition.

Its archives include personal letters, photographs, press cuttings and a comprehensive library of books on the artist, all accessible to visitors.

The Exhibition runs until March 29. For more information visit www.stanleyspencer.org.uk/