- John Piper
- signed, titled, and dated 1937 on the reverse
- oil on canvas laid on board
- 40 by 91cm.; 16 by 36in.
Sale, Thomas Gaze & Son Norfolk, 25th August 2000, lot 601, where acquired by the present owner
London, Dulwich Picture Gallery, John Piper in the 1930s: Abstraction on the Beach, 1st April - 22nd June 2003, cat. no.43, illustrated p.131.
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The first abstract works that Piper created evolved in the second half of 1934, and seem to have been inspired by a visit that he made to Paris in June of that year when, through introductions from Ben Nicholson, Piper visited a number of artist's studios, including Alexander Calder and Jean Helion (both of whom were to become lifelong friends), and exhibitions, including one by Cesar Domela. On his return he began making abstract constructions, using textured glass, dowels, enamel paint and other non-art materials. These pieces show a remarkable level of compositional accomplishment, such as Abstract Construction 1934 (The Whitworth Art Gallery, Manchester) but these very quickly evolved in 1935 into painted abstracts. Piper had visited Paris again in March 1935, and on this trip he was much impressed by an exhibition of Picasso's paper collages at the Galerie Pierre. Along with his separation from his wife, Eileen Holding, and his moving to a new home, Fawley Bottom Farmhouse, in February of that year, these abstracts must have felt like a new start for Piper, and the freshness of the colours and the spontaneity of their simple shapes give them a vigour that is quite unique. Whilst these paintings, such as Painting 1935 (Coll. National Galleries of Wales, Cardiff) begin to investigate the ordering and spatial relationships of the forms therein, sometimes even using physical means in the surface to do so, it is in the paintings of 1936 and 1937 that Piper discovers an abstract voice that is purely his own. His involvement in exhibitions such as the important Abstract & Concrete exhibition at the Lefevre Gallery in April of 1936 year saw him showing works alongside major European artists such as Mondrian and Giacometti, and these new paintings have a complexity of composition which is quite remarkable. Most notable is the introduction of opened out linear forms which bring a lightness to the images, perhaps in a way parallel to that achieved by Moore and Hepworth in the piercing of their sculpture.In Painting of 1937, Piper uses a long wide format, not dissimilar to that being used by his friend Ivon Hitchens in his paintings, forcing the viewer to read the painting across its expanse and heightening the sense of recession and progression in the image. The paint application ranges from thickly brushed areas to the very thinly stained un-primed canvas that forms the background to the image, and Piper also cuts areas of the canvas away to reveal the different surface below.