Every picture tells a story - and some more than one. In the case of Stanley Spencer, the subject of a huge exhibition at Tate Britain (until June 24), the paintings are not only scenes of everyday life in the Berkshire village of Cookham, where he lived, but also expressions of personal religious faith.
Born in 1891, Spencer was taught at home before going to the Slade School of Art. Typical of his rather Blakean style is "The Resurrection, Cookham" (1924-7), a huge painting that shows villagers climbing out of their graves on Judgment Day.
The cultural historian Patrick Wright, joint-curator with Timothy Hyman, says: "We wanted to get away from the view that Spencer was just an eccentric. He is an epic painter with a vast range of interests."
In the 1930s, Spencer's attempts to enjoy free love led to crisis. His wife, Hilda, left him and he married Patricia Preece, a lesbian. His nude portraits of her and "The Beatitudes of Love" series reflect his anguish. Also included in the exhibition of 115 works is Spencer's output as official war artist in 1939-45 and his suburban landscapes.
Teacher's packs available from Tate Education: 020 7887 8756; school groups at pound;2.50 per child booked in advance through Tate Ticketing: 020 7887 88888887; www.tate.org.uk After Spencer's Cookham, and revealing self-portraits, it seems as if the work of the German-born Horst P Horst belongs to another world. In the National Portrait Gallery's Horst: portraits (until June 3), the fruits of his 60-year career as a Vogue photographer seem like an album of all that is glamorous and sophisticated.
The 150 portraits, in black and white and colour, include many of the great fashion icons, movie stars and high-society figures of Western culture since the 1930s - Coco Chanel, Marlene Dietrich, Rita Hayworth, Salvador Dali, Steve McQueen and Paloma Picasso. Student discounts of pound;2 each for groups booked two weeks in advance: 020 7312 2483; www.npg.org.uk Putting art into a more general cultural context is the mission of the Museumof London's Creative Quarters: the art world in London 1700-2000 (until July 15). This exhibition maps the lives of artists in the metropolis (including printmakers, sculptors and engravers), showing the districts where they lived and the people they worked with from 18th-century Covent Garden to 20th-century Camden, Soho and the East End. Artists include Reynolds, Constable, Rossetti, Landseer, Whistler and Bacon - as well as printmakers, sculptors and engravers.
Exhibits evoke London's daily lives not only through paintings, but also with objects such as paintboxes, prints, street signs and ephemera.
Events include lectures and study days. For further details, tel: 020 7814 5777; www.museumoflondon. org.uk Over at the National Theatre, the Festival of Lights (until April 21) is a similar celebration of cultural creativity. This time, the theme is muticulturalism, as children from Walnut Tree Walk primary and London Nautical secondary school in Lambeth, south London, participate in a visual arts project with Emergency Exit Arts.
Inspired by south Asian light festivals, pupils have created lanterns of all shapes and sizes to make a stunning display that will appear in the foyer for the duration of the theatre's production of the Indian epic Ramayana.
This is the pilot stage of a project which, in the autumn, will involve more schools in a multicultural celebration of all kinds of festivals, from Halloween to the Chinese Moon Festival, from the Jewish Hanukkah to the Indian Diwali. Look out for processions, lanterns and a lot of fun at the National in the autumn. Tel: Deb Mullins, Emergency Exit Arts, 020 8853 4809.
In the Midlands, the soaring sounds of the shehnai, bansuri and tabla that characterise traditional Indian weddings make up The Sound of Celebration, performed by the brothers Mahavir Prasad and Satish Prakash, two of Delhi's finest classical musicians. Tour visits Birmingham on April 7 and Bedworth on April 8. Details from the Asian Music Circuit: 020 8742 9911.