Nancy Spender

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Nancy Spender (29 October 1909 – 20 June 2001) was a British painter, described on her death as "much underrated".[1]


She was born Nancy Sharp on 29 October 1909 in Truro, Cornwall, and attended Cheltenham Ladies' College and the Slade School of Art.[2] At the Slade she met and married her first husband, William Coldstream, with whom she had two daughters.[2]

In the late 1930s she had an affair with Louis MacNeice, illustrating two of his books and partially inspiring Autumn Journal.[1] She met Michael Spender (brother of the poet Stephen Spender) at this time, fell in love. In 1942 she divorced Coldstream and married Spender. She worked as an ambulance driver during the Second World War[1] and her son Philip Spender was born in 1943.[2] Her second husband was killed in an air crash during the last week of the war. She took up work as an art teacher, which she continued till 1977.[1]

Nancy Spender's portrait paintings, still lifes and landscapes were painted in a figurative, realist manner.[2] She exhibited regularly with the London Group and at the Royal Academy of Arts.[1] After her retirement she increased her output of paintings and etchings.[1] Having little interest in commercial sales, she did not have her first solo exhibition until 1979, which was held in a West End gallery run by a friend.[2]

Nancy Spender died on 20 June 2001 aged 91.[2]

Two of her portraits are now in the collection of the London's National Portrait Gallery and another is held at the Sir John Soane's Museum.[2]


  1. ^ a b c d e f "Nancy Spender (obituary)". The Telegraph. 27 June 2001. Retrieved 6 January 2014.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g John Margetson (25 June 2001). "Nancy Spender (obituary)". The Guardian. Retrieved 6 January 2014.