The present work was completed on 9 July (733.4.5, painting list).
Painted in 1938, The Mount, Cookham Dene was executed during the period when Spencer, with the encouragement of his dealer, Dudley Tooth, was concentrating on landscape and still-life oil painting depicting Cookham and the surrounding area. Although landscape painting had always featured in Spencer's oeuvre, when, in October 1932, he transferred to Arthur Tooth and Sons in Bruton Street from Goupils, the agreement specified that Tooth would continue to market the commercially more difficult figure paintings in return for a steady flow of saleable landscape paintings.
Although Spencer was enjoying considerable success, having purchased 'Lindworth', his Cookham residence from 1932, with the proceeds of the sale of The Resurrection 1924-27 (Tate, London), his relationship with Patricia Preece was placing an increasing strain on his finances and the importance of producing landscape and still-life painting became greater.
Cookham, which is the setting for many of these works, was for Spencer 'a holy suburb of heaven'. In them, Spencer dispensed with preliminary drawings and painted directly from nature, producing a feeling of an intensely observed moment. The present work depicts a panoramic view of a formal garden, which gives way to fields and woods beyond. Although there are no human figures included in the work, human habitation is clearly implied in the formal garden with its topiary, neatly gravelled paths and flowerbeds in full bloom. Even the background is a far cry from a natural wilderness as the fields denote farming activity.
Typical of Spencer's work, The Mount, Cookham Dene, is painted from an unusual viewpoint, looking over one of the hedges into the formal garden beyond, giving the work an impression of a casual glance. However, the intensity with which Spencer has observed this garden is apparent in the amount of detail included in the work.
Keith Bell notes the appeal of these paintings was rooted, 'in the growing idealisation of the countryside ... which found expression in the 'back to land' movement after the First World War, and which was supported by books like Longman's English Heritage series in 1929, the programmes produced by the BBC in the 'national character' (op. cit. pp. 279-284) and contemporary critics responded enthusiastically to the paintings shown at Tooths. A commentator in the Scotsman observed, 'Personally I think Spencer is in the tradition of British Pre-Raphaelitism ... the poetic naturalistic kind of Hunt, Brown and the young Millais. Spencer paints landscape as they did, not so minutely of course, but with the same prodigious delight in all the facts of nature for their own sake. He loves to paint nettles and grasses leaf by leaf, blade by blade, as they did. He loves it all too much to leave anything out' (ibid.).