John Piper, C.H.
- John Piper, C.H.
- Great Goxhill Lincolnshire
signed; signed, titled and dated 1947 on the reverse
- oil on canvas
- 40.5 by 51cm.; 16 by 20in.
Although Piper had begun to work with architectural subjects in the later 1930s after his brief but important foray into abstraction, it was the period of WWII and immediately after which was to provide the opportunities which forged a style that has become one of the best-known of any British artist of the twentieth century, perhaps in part because in its odd juxtaposition of the ancient and the modern, we recognise a theme that has persisted throughout British art across the centuries.
The darkest years of WWII saw a high level of isolationist introspection amongst artists and the identification of the architectural heritage, the tangible evidence of the past, with the nationalism of the Churchillian call to arms was almost inevitable. The Recording Britain project, supported by the American Pilgrim Trust, ran parallel to the official War Artists Scheme, and many of those painters involved produced work for both. However, it was Piper who was to become the artist with whom the image of the country house was most closely identified. In many ways, this subject was the complete antithesis of the modernist ethic of the pre-war years and stood as a potent symbol of the past status quo, and yet it seems to fit easily into his oeuvre. Drawing on the precedents of the Romantic movement and his own knowledge and enthusiasm for British architecture, Piper was able to pull off the enormously difficult task of combining these images of the past with a technique which used a variety of media, including collage, to create a manner which is distinctly his own.