John Piper

John Piper C.H. (1903-1992)

Piper is one of the most accomplished and versatile British artists of the twentieth century. His home, Fawley Bottom, was an important meeting place for artists, writers, composers and satirists e.g. Benjamin Britten, John Betjeman, Willliam Walton, and Richard Ingrams. As well as being a highly talented painter and printmaker he is also known for his illustration, stained glass (most notably for Coventry Cathedral), ceramics, and set and costume design. Piper also wrote and illustrated a number of books.

Piper was an avid experimenter in printmaking. His main interests were architecture, natural phenomena, and the interaction of atmosphere and light. Piper's commitment to printmaking started in the 1930s. For the next fifty years or so he used lithography, screenprinting and etching to romantically depict Britain's countryside and architectural heritage. Piper's unique style set him apart from his contemporaries and made him hugely successful. Piper campaigned for the preservation of Britain 's landscape and its ancient buildings. He wanted to capture the world he loved before it disappeared.

“I know perfectly well I would rather paint a ruined abbey half-covered with ivy and standing in long grass than I would paint it after it has been taken over by the office of works, when they have taken all the ivy off and mown all the grass with an Atco mower”.

Although he is most famous for subjects such as stately homes, churches and castles, Piper's work includes diverse stylistic variation, such as his 'Eye and Camera' series which depicted the female figure.

John Piper studied law before going on to study at Richmond School of Art, Kingston School of Art and the Royal College of Art (1926-1929). In the mid 1930s, Piper was asked to join and exhibit with the “Seven and Five” a group of artists that included Henry Moore, Ivon Hitchens and Barbara Hepworth. His first one man show was held at the London Gallery in 1938. He was enlisted by John Betjeman to contribute to the Shell Guides in 1938 and took over the editorship himself soon after.

At the beginning of the war Piper was commissioned by the Queen to paint twelve views of Windsor Castle . Piper volunteered for the RAF in 1940, but was instead commissioned by the War Artist's Advisory Committee and was appointed Official War Artist in 1944. He was a valued member of the Royal Fine Art Commission for nineteen years, as well as a trustee of both the National and Tate Galleries. In 1979, the Museum of Modern Art in Oxford held a major retrospective of Piper's work as did the Tate in 1982. The work of John Piper is widely represented, for example, it is exhibited in Bolton Art Gallery, the National Museums and Galleries of Wales and Tate Britain, London.