Artist biography

John PIPER b. 1903

Painter of architecture, landscape and abstract compositions, designer for the theatre and of stained-glass windows, and writer on the arts. Born 13 December 1903 at Epsom, Surrey, son of a solicitor. Visited Italy regularly as a child. Published a book of poems with his own illustrations 1924. Worked in his father's office until 1928 before studying at the Richmond and Kingston Schools of Art, and the R.C.A. 1928–9. Exhibited at the Arlington Gallery with David Birch 1927 (wood engravings) and at the Mansard Gallery with Clarice Moffat, P. F. Millard and his first wife Eileen Holding 1931; first one-man show at the London Gallery 1938 (collages and drawings). Contributed to the Nation from 1928. At first painted mainly landscapes but, after a visit to Paris in 1933, turned to abstraction 1934–7. Member of the London Group 1933 and the 7 & 5 Society 1934–5. Married the writer Myfanwy Evans 1935 and assisted her on Axis - a Quarterly Review of Contemporary ‘Abstract’ Painting and Sculpture 1935–7. Began writing for the Architectural Review and published his first guide-book 1938, returning to representational painting, particularly architectural subjects. His first stage designs were for Stephen Spender's Trial of a Judge 1938; other designs include ballets, The Quest 1943 and Job 1948, and six operas by Benjamin Britten. Official War Artist 1940–2. Published English Romantic Artists 1942 and Buildings and Prospects, a collection of his articles, 1948. Trustee of the Tate Gallery 1946–52 and 1954–61; member of the Arts Council panel 1952–7. First New York exhibition at the Curt Valentin Gallery 1948. Painted decorations for the British Embassy, Rio de Janeiro, 1948. Supervised the design of the Battersea Pleasure Gardens with Osbert Lancaster 1951. Designed windows for Oundle School Chapel 1954–6, the baptistery of the new Coventry Cathedral 1958, etc.

Lit: John Betjeman, John Piper, 1944; S. John Woods, John Piper, Paintings, Drawings and Theatre Designs, 1955.

Published in:
Mary Chamot, Dennis Farr and Martin Butlin, The Modern British Paintings, Drawings and Sculpture, London 1964, II