1903 - 1992
John Piper was one of the most versatile English artists of the last century, a master of mediums including painting in oil and watercolour, theatrical design, book illustration stained glass and tapestry. Above all he is recognised for his printmaking and is widely regarded as one of the most outstanding printmakers of his generation.
As an artist Piper had the greatest of understandings of the modernist movement, in terms of its aims techniques and freedoms and at the same time created works of moving beauty. Piper absorbed the principles of abstraction, surrealism, cubism and Pop Art and was able to combine them with is knowledge of Romanesque carving and stained glass.
His prints have special fascination, in their entirety they reflect the course of Pipers life work and the breadth of his interests. They are some of the earliest known works he produced and cover almost every subject matter of his creative life, displaying his many shift in style, from purely abstract prints to those with an affinity with set design, collage and stained glass. Their subject matter encompasses buildings, ruins, gardens, foliate heads, towns, the seaside and the human figure. Piper never merely recorded, he shows objects that have remained unnoticed; neglected masterpieces of architecture, monuments, corbels and Victorian Dream Palaces before they became fashionable.
His study of conventional lithography at the Royal College provided a catalyst for experimentation and a basis for what would later be a career dedicated to pushing back the boundaries of printmaking. This medium provided Piper with both a means of artistic expression and a technical challenge. What is as striking as the range of Piper`s style and techniques is the precocity of his techniques. His prints show how greatly advanced he was aesthetically and how well he mastered the print medium. He was responsible for bringing enormous technical and stylsitic innovations to the medium of printmaking.
Piper was a major contributor to the 1930’s abstract painting movement with compositions of tilting planes, arranged like flats in a stage set. In 1942 he published the `British Romantic Artists` showing the survival of William Blake and Palmers Romanticism in a sequence of British artists including himself. Throughout his career Piper`s work remained Romantic in every sense, sometimes more topographical, at times extravagantly theatrical.
Piper was appointed Official War Artist during the Second World War, his documentation of the destruction and devastation of war time bombing captivated the nation`s attention and secured its affection. After the war Piper continued to concentrate on Britain`s landscape and architecture, capturing in both writing and painting the country`s romantic heritage.
Piper died aged 89 after a long and distinguished artistic career, and although during his lifetime he achieved immense popularity, it was only after his death that demand for his work soared and he received a new level of critical acclaim, becoming highly collectable. His works are held in major national collections including the Tate Gallery, the V&A and The Scottish National Galleries of Modern Art .