Vera Spencer 1926-2021

Born in Prague, Czechoslovakia in 1926, Spencer moved to the UK with her family in 1936.

She married Herbert Spencer (1924-2002), the British designer and founder / editor of Typographica,. Vera Spencer attended the Slade School of Fine Art and studied Textile Design at the Central School of Arts and Crafts between 1946 and 1949.

Vera Spencer exhibited at, and contributed to, many of the most forward thinking and groundbreaking exhibitions of the early 1950’s and was allied with many of the emerging groups of the time including the Constructivist Group, the Independent Group and the Modern Movement.

She was one of the new and progressive abstract painters, a term that virtually became synonymous with modern, which included the likes of Ben Nicholson, Patrick Heron, Victor Pasmore, Peter Lanyon and Terry Frost. She exhibited in Abstract Paintings, Sculptures and Mobiles, the very first post-war exhibition devoted to non-figurative art (organised by the artist Adrian Heath) at the AIA (Artists International Association) Galleries in London in May 1951. In the summer of 1951 this loosely defined group received their first critical recognition in an article by Toni del Renzio in Typographica, the journal edited by the designer Herbert Spencer.

Following the 1953 3rd Weekend Exhibition (held at Adrian Heath's studio at 22 Fitzroy Street) - where Spencer exhibited alongside Terence Conran, Roger Hilton, Eduardo Paolozzi and William Scott; Toni del Renzio's review observed that Spencer 'dominates the exhibition with her efficient and wholly charming collage.'

The early 1950’s were a prodigiously productive period for Spencer. She exhibited alongside luminaries of the day at the 1951 Festival of Britain and with Gimpel Fils British Abstract Art (organised by Anthony Hill), Galerie Arnaud Trois Peintres in Paris and then again with the AIA Gallery The Mirror and the Square at the New Burlington Galleries in 1952. In 1953 she shared, and exhibited at, 22 Piccadilly Arcade with Terence Conran (Conran Furniture).

In 1954, Spencer exhibited at The ICA (Institute of Contemporary Arts) in London; at Victor Pasmore and Kenneth Martin's Artist versus Machine at Building Centre, Store street, London and with the Palais de Beaux Arts in Paris Collages - where she was most notably hailed as one of the dominant influences in the renaissance of collage by the eminent art historian Herta Wescher - who went on to become an ardent collector of her work.

Her links with Paris and friendships with Paule Vézelay and the Group Espace led to joining their English branch and she exhibited with them at their Royal Festival Hall exhibition in 1955 alongside Ithel Colquhoun, Sonia Delauney and Jean Arp.

During the late 1950's Spencer's interest in collage tool a new direction and she began combining printed ephemera and typography with the principles of fine art painting; these more radical collage pieces travelled as far as the USA and the Rose Fried Gallery. A gallery specialising in aiding the introduction of important European abstract painters into the American art market they exhibited a selection of her works at their International Collage Exhibition in 1956. In 1964, (and now considered an authority in the modern interpretation of collage) Vera's work was included in Cinquante ans de collages; papier colles, assemblages, collages, du Cubisme a nos jours, at the Musée d'Art et d'Industrie in Saint-Étienne, confirming her place as an innovative and influential modern day artist.

Vera Spencer died in west London on 14th January 2021, aged 94

Vera Spencer