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John Piper (1903-1992) was born in Epsom, Surrey. He turned to art studies against his parent wishes at the age of 25, first at the Richmond School or Art, and then briefly at the Royal College of Art. He had already practised writing guidebooks and recording buildings after his youthful bicycle tours, illustration work which he would take up again in collaboration with the poet John Betjeman for the Shell Guides in the 1930s. His writings covered art, architecture and music, reflecting his wide-ranging interests and abilities in painting, printmaking, photography, stained glass, ceramics and theatre design.

Apart from a short period of abstract work in the 1930s, his extensive oeuvre exemplified his gift for capturing the spirit of place with rich colours and graphic but always painterly design, even when recording scenes of destruction as an Official War Artist in the Neo-romantic idiom, or when collaborating with Patrick Reyntiens on the 195 panels of stained glass for the Baptistery of Basil Spence’s new cathedral at Coventry.

The predominant theme of his mainly lithographic print oeuvre was architecture – castles, stately homes, town, domestic or cottage views – in a landscape setting, or focussing on a characteristic or an exceptional detail of a building. These were seen with his penchant for highly coloured, flamboyant, gothick or nocturnal settings, reflecting his deep sympathy with, and understanding of, the English picturesque tradition of 18th and 19th century oils and watercolours.

Although widely exhibited in galleries in Britain since WW2, he had to wait until 1983 for a comprehensive retrospective at the Tate Gallery. Subsequent museum exhibitions have tended to focus on distinctive periods or themes in his work, as at the Imperial War Museum (2000, war artist), River and Rowing Museum, Henley (2002, a centenary exhibition), Dulwich Picture Gallery (2003, abstraction), or Dorchester Abbey (2012, church architecture).

 

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Exhibitions

View available works

John Piper (1903-1992) was born in Epsom, Surrey. He turned to art studies against his parent wishes at the age of 25, first at the Richmond School or Art, and then briefly at the Royal College of Art. He had already practised writing guidebooks and recording buildings after his youthful bicycle tours, illustration work which he would take up again in collaboration with the poet John Betjeman for the Shell Guides in the 1930s. His writings covered art, architecture and music, reflecting his wide-ranging interests and abilities in painting, printmaking, photography, stained glass, ceramics and theatre design.

Apart from a short period of abstract work in the 1930s, his extensive oeuvre exemplified his gift for capturing the spirit of place with rich colours and graphic but always painterly design, even when recording scenes of destruction as an Official War Artist in the Neo-romantic idiom, or when collaborating with Patrick Reyntiens on the 195 panels of stained glass for the Baptistery of Basil Spence’s new cathedral at Coventry.

The predominant theme of his mainly lithographic print oeuvre was architecture – castles, stately homes, town, domestic or cottage views – in a landscape setting, or focussing on a characteristic or an exceptional detail of a building. These were seen with his penchant for highly coloured, flamboyant, gothick or nocturnal settings, reflecting his deep sympathy with, and understanding of, the English picturesque tradition of 18th and 19th century oils and watercolours.

Although widely exhibited in galleries in Britain since WW2, he had to wait until 1983 for a comprehensive retrospective at the Tate Gallery. Subsequent museum exhibitions have tended to focus on distinctive periods or themes in his work, as at the Imperial War Museum (2000, war artist), River and Rowing Museum, Henley (2002, a centenary exhibition), Dulwich Picture Gallery (2003, abstraction), or Dorchester Abbey (2012, church architecture).

 

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