Three Somerset Towers

by John Piper

DIMENSIONS: (unframed) 26.75 x 13.75 in./ 67.95 x 34.92 cm
SIGNATURE: Signed, titled and dated on the reverse
MEDIUM: Watercolour and gouache on paper

Catalogue No: 4260 Categories: ,

Executed in 1954, this is one of a series of arrangements of churches mounted together which Piper executed in the 1950s and 60s. His Three Suffolk Towers of 1962-63, which is of similar scale to the present work, is in the collection of the National Museum of Wales, Cardiff.

Provenance

Private Collection, United Kingdom, 1964;
Browse & Darby, London;

Private Collection, United Kingdom

 

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Biography

Piper was born in 1903. The son of a successful London solicitor, he studied law until the age of twenty-three when his father died, and in 1926 he began his long artistic career, first at the Richmond School of Art and then under Sir William Rothenstein at the Royal College of Art.

From 1926 to 1940 John Piper supplemented his income by reviewing art, books and plays and began to make a reputation by illustrating his articles for the Architectural Review with his own drawings. During this time, he was active with his paintings and in the years from 1939 to 1940 they began to sell. In 1940, John Piper was appointed an official war artist.

In 1941 he produced the first series of drawings of Windsor Castle for H.M. The Queen, the late Queen Mother, and his work became increasingly prized and sought after. After the war and in the 1950’s John Piper was a Trustee of the Tate Gallery and, later, of the National Gallery and a member of the Arts Council Art Panel. In 1959 for nineteen years he became a member of the Royal Fine Art Commission and in 1971 he was appointed a Companion of Honour in recognition of his services to art. From 1937 he worked and lived at his studio farmhouse in Oxfordshire with his wife Myfanway.

Apart from his paintings and graphics John Piper is also well known for his stained glass windows for the new Coventry Cathedral, the windows for Eton College Chapel and in collaboration with Patrick Reyntiens for Liverpool’s Roman Catholic Cathedral.

From 1940 John Piper held many solo exhibitions and his works are exhibited in galleries throughout the world, from the Tate Gallery, London to the Museum of Modern Art, New York.
John Piper worked in the graphics field for many years, having started Contemporary Lithographs in 1936 in co-operation with Robert Wellington and the Curwen and Baynard Press. In 1964, Marlborough published twenty-four original lithographs called “A Retrospective of Churches” which is one of his best known suites of graphics. In 1983 the Tate Gallery held a retrospective of John Piper’s work to celebrate his eightieth birthday.

Literature

cf. Alan Bownes, ed., John Piper (exhibition catalogue), Tate Gallery, London, 1983, p. 132, for illustration of Three Suffolk Towers