Acclaimed by one critic as ‘the modern Meissonier of British Domestic life’, Charles Spencelayh was a painter of figure subjects, genre scenes and portraits. He has also been compared to William Powell Frith in his skilful evocation of sentiment and meticulous rendering of detail. He worked in many media achieving great acclaim as a miniaturist, watercolorist and etcher.
Charles Spencelayh was the son of Henry Spencelayh, an engineer and iron and brass founder. He was born in 1865 in Rochester, Kent. He first studied at the National Art Training School (later renamed the Royal College of Art), where he won a prize for figure drawing. Spencelayh continued his training in Paris where he exhibited at the Paris Salon.
Spencelayh exhibited predominantly in Britain. He showed 30 paintings at the Royal Academy from 1912 until his death in 1958. He was a founder member of the Royal Society of Miniature Painters, joining in 1897. He was also elected an honorary member of the Royal Birmingham Society of Artists and Vice-President of the British Watercolour Society. His work hung in many of the leading London venues including the Royal Institute of Oil Painters, the Royal Institute of Painters in Watercolour, the New Gallery and the Alpine Gallery. Spencelayh also exhibited regularly in the provinces with the Royal Society of Artists, Birmingham, the Royal Cambrian Academy, the Royal Hibernian Academy, the Glasgow Institute of Fine Art, the Walker Gallery, Liverpool and Manchester City Art Gallery. He held a one-man show at the Sunderland Art Gallery in 1936.
Charles Spencelayh was also admired and supported by several influential collectors, among them Mr. Levy and Queen Mary. Mr. Levy's admiration went so far as to give the artist and his family use of a residence in Manchester. Spencelayh painted a postage stamp sized portrait of King George V for Queen Mary’s celebrated Doll House, shown in the Wembley Exhibition of 1924 and now in Windsor. Queen Mary’s and Princess Marie-Louise’s thank you letter was one of Spencelayh’s most treasured possessions. Charles Spencelayh had a son Vernon who studied under him and achieved his own success as a painter and an ivory miniaturist.
The work of Charles Spencelayh is represented in several museums including the Bradford City Art Gallery, the Tate Gallery, London, Manchester City Art Gallery and the Harris Museum and Art Gallery, Preston.