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Humphrey Spender
(1910 — 2005)

Humphrey Spender was a British artist particularly known for his photography, painting and textile designs. Born in London in 1910, Spender first began his artistic education at the University of Freiburg-im-Breisgau in 1927 where he studied art history for a year before training at the Architectural Association School of Architecture between the years of 1929 – 1934. Following his graduation, Spender did not practise as an architect, opting instead to open a photographic studio. It was here that the artist first began to explore documentary photography, resulting in high profile commissions from publications such as the Architectural Press, Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar. His signature style of composition developed significantly in the years to come. Spender undertook several photographic projects which featured an emphasis on the sociological, capturing scenes of poverty and unemployment on the Jarrow March of 1936 alongside similar observations of working-class culture in northern centres such as Bolton and Blackpool.


From 1941 onwards Spender served as an Official War Photographer, documenting the events of the Second World War alongside his role interpreting reconnaissance photographs for the Royal Air Force. After the War, Spender abandoned professional photography. The artist began to focus on producing paintings, a medium he had often enjoyed throughout his photographic career, whilst exploring other artistic methods such as mural, mosaic and textile design. In 1953 he accepted a position in the Textiles Department of the Royal College of Art, where he remained for twenty years. The artist died in 2005. His work can be seen in the collections of the Hepworth Wakefield and the Victoria & Albert Museum.