Robert Spencer Information and Inventory

Robert Spencer

(1879 - 1931)

Robert Spencer 


One O’Clock Break is unquestionably among the most important paintings in the collection, and, along with a Richard Miller, shares one of the more outrageous acquisition stories as well. Robert Spencer was among the first artists to settle into the New Hope area, at the suggestion of his close friend Charles Rosen. He arrived in 1906, thus becoming the initial core of the artists’ community, along with Edward Redfield and William Lathrop. Spencer’s focus differed from the majority of the New Hope landscape painters, favoring instead factories, tenements, and the clusters of anonymous people who inhabited these buildings. He differed, however, from most artists of the “urban” scene who depicted living and working conditions in an attached or social commentary way. Spencer’s fascination was one of design— placement of structures and figures in the landscape. The years from 1910 to 1915 were Spencer’s most productive and focus upon his famous “Mill Series,” of which this 1913 painting is a quintessential example.1 The mills that Spencer immortalized were known as the Heath and Maris Mills, first constructed in 1707, with an addition in 1813, and over many years and changes of ownership were a gristmill, a cotton mill, and a silk mill. They ceased operations between 1916 and 1920. When asked about the significance of these mills, Spencer responded, “I don’t care whether the building is a factory or a mill… It is the romantic mass of the building, its placing relative to the landscape and the life in it and about it that count. People ask me what is made in my mills. Damned if I know and if I care.” 2 There was clearly a darker side to Robert Spencer, and an increasingly unhappy marriage leading to severe bouts of depression resulted in his suicide in 1931 at the relatively young age of fifty-three. This, coupled with at least two fires destroying his studio and many works, has contributed to the rarity of this important artist’s paintings.

Robert Spencer Gallery

No paintings by this author