The 1959 red conté on paper was completed in preparation for an oil painting commissioned by the artist’s friends, Joy Smith and her husband.
It was acquired via private treaty sale through the Art Fund for a six-figure sum with support from the V&A Purchase Grant Fund and The Friends of Stanley Spencer Gallery.
The finished oil is now in the Tate Britain collection.
Featured in the gallery’s current exhibition Love, Art Loss: The Wives of Stanley Spencer, the picture is described by the gallery as ‘an intense, unnerving image, its immediacy of line expressing the frailty of the sitter’.
“Spencer’s striking self-portrait offers a unique perspective into the final months of this important British painter,” says Jenny Waldman, director of Art Fund.
“We are delighted to support the Stanley Spencer Gallery in this acquisition, ensuring the work goes on public display in Cookham where the artist was born and found such inspiration.”