J Spencer is a rare artist about whom little is known which is surprising given the quality of his work.
He exhibited only once at the Royal Academy, a work titled "St John's Barn, Eltham" in 1822 and this was sent from the Bayswater address of the painter and eminent engraver Samuel William Reynolds 1773-1835. Reynolds' landscapes showed the influence of John Constable and John Sell Cotman and one can surmise that Spencer was Reynolds' pupil or fellow landscapist who shared a studio.
The latter is probably more likely as Spencer had produced a fine view of Ham Common - at 28 x 40 inches - larger than this version, which was signed and dated 1812. M H Grant, in his Dictionary of British Landscape Painters (1952), writes of the artist and the Ham painting that "…reveals an artist of considerable merit…is painted somewhat in the style of Edward Dayes, that is to say in a style alike clear, mellow and faithful to the topography of the scene, an excellent landscape of its time. No other canvas appears to be known today, but they would be well worth rediscovering as welcome additions to British Landscape".
There are almost certainly other pictures by Spencer extant, but if unsigned and given his scarcity and the resulting lack of comparison, there is a fair chance that they have been speculatively attributed to others.
1800 - 1899
Oil on canvas
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Fishermen in a rowing boat in the foreground drawing in their nets with a man o'war out to sea
Shipping at Spithead with Merchantmen, a moored British Navy Third Rate Man o' War and the Cutter 'Thetis' in the Foreground