Stanley had been appointed an Associate of the Royal Academy at the time of his return to Cookham in 1932. In 1934 he gave vent to his delight at his return and to his hopes for new Cookham-feelings in his painting of The Lovers or The Dustman inspired by his growing relationship with Patricia. This was followed in 1935 by a 'counterpoint' painting, St Francis and the Birds which stressed his continuing regard for Hilda as his major muse. Both paintings were done in highly self-referential imagery which was intended to indicate the as-yet tentative nature of his 'triangular-marriage' dilemma, and in Patricia's case made use of sexual predilections which until then he had largely suppressed in his work.

Stanley submitted both paintings with three others to the 1935 Summer Exhibition of the RA. The Viewing Committee accepted the three 'blameless' paintings, but were unable to comprehend from Stanley's imagery the significance for him of The Lovers and St Francis. They rejected both, explaining that they did not think these works of advantage to your reputation or the influence of the Academy.

Such a reaction was almost unheard-of in dealing with the submissions of Academicians. Stanley, incandescent with fury, unleashed letters of protest to The Times claiming that he was being strait-jacketed by false morality. When these failed to move the Committee, he resigned his membership of the Academy, insisting that all five paintings be returned to him. The art media of the time had a field day.