Prolific artist of the C20th, producing paintings and ceramics and designing stage sets. Lived most of his working life at Fawley Bottom nr Henley.
Link with the Chilterns
Lived in the Chilterns for most of his working life at Fawley Bottom near Henley
13th December 1903
Died 28th June 1992
John Piper was born in Epsom and initially followed his father’s wishes in becoming an articled clerk to a solicitor. However, following the death of his father in 1927 he went to the Royal College of Art and became involved with the abstract movement. As his skills developed he was asked to join a group of artists known as the ‘Seven and Five’ which included Ben Nicholson, Henry Moore, Ivan Hitchens, Frances Hodgekins, Barbara Hepworth and Winifred Nicholson.
In 1935 he and his wife moved to Fawley Bottom Farmhouse near Henley. They lived there until his death in 1992. Over the next fifty years he produced an enormous volume of work in a variety of media although by 1938 he had rejected abstract painting and concentrated on painting buildings and landscapes. In part this was due to his involvement with John Betjeman in producing the Shell County Guides series.
His reputation was made during World War II by his paintings of destruction in Coventry, Bath and elsewhere. After the war, his reputation established, he produced work in a variety of media including stage sets, stained glass windows, pottery, fabric designs and prints in addition to his paintings. He was extensively involved with Henley’s Kenton Theatre and designed sets and costumes. In 1951 John and Dr Alan Hartley took over the lease of the Theatre.
He is well known for the stained glass windows he designed for Coventry Cathedral, and he also designed windows for a number of Chilterns churches (see below). John Piper did few paintings of the Chilterns area. The exceptions are paintings of Fawley Bottom Farmhouse, a painting of Thame High Street in 1948 and prints of Lewknor church and village. Tate Britain and the Imperial War Museum hold examples of his work.
In 1983 he was honoured with an eightieth birthday exhibition at Tate Britain.
He is buried at St Mary’s Church, Fawley.
Read more about the Shell County Guides on wikipedia
What you can visit
Fawley Bottom Farmhouse is a private house on Fawley Bottom Lane and is not open to the public.
The Bohun Gallery at 15 Reading Road in Henley often have a selection of John Piper prints
A number of Chilterns churches have stained glass windows designed by John Piper, notably St Paul’s in Bledow Ridge, Christ Church in Flackwell Heath, St. Mary the Virgin in Turville, St Mary’s in Fawley, St Bartholomew’s in Nettlebed and St. Paul’s in Pishill.
The River and Rowing Museum in Henley contains a mural by John Piper commissioned by P&O for the SS Oriana. It also contains an example of a set design he did for the Kenton Theatre.