Lot 24
  • 24

John Piper

150,000 - 250,000 GBP
Log in to view results
bidding is closed


  • John Piper
  • Painting
  • signed, titled, and dated 1937 on the reverse
  • oil on canvas laid on board
  • 40 by 91cm.; 16 by 36in.


G.A. Coulson
Sale, Thomas Gaze & Son Norfolk,  25th August 2000, lot 601, where acquired by the present owner


London, The London Gallery, probably Constructive Art, July 1937;
London, Dulwich Picture Gallery, John Piper in the 1930s: Abstraction on the Beach, 1st April - 22nd June 2003, cat. no.43, illustrated p.131.


Antiques Trade Gazette, 'Art Sales in the Provinces,' 16th September 2000, illustrated p.32.


The canvas is original and the board is sound. There are old nail holes in the corners, with minor flecks of resultant old paint loss. The artist has cut out parts of canvas and painted directly on the board; there are a few fine isolated lines of cracking to these areas, which correspond to movement within the board. There are a few other isolate lines of craquelure, for example in the pale grey pigment in the upper right corner and a curving vertical line in the beige and dark blue grey pigment just to the right of the centre. There are one or two tiny surfaces abrasions, including to the light grey pigment on the right and to the black pigment on the left. There are a few tiny flecks of old paint loss to the beige pigment near the right of the upper edge. There are a few spots of surface dirt and the canvas is inherently worn and rubbed in places. Generally the work is in good overall condition. Ultraviolet light reveals retouching to the aforementioned nail holes. There are some small areas and flecks of retouching to the white pigment in the centre, to the cream pigment on the right and to the grey pigment lower left. There are a few additional isolated specks of retouching in places across the painting. These have been well executed. Held under glass in a painted black wooden frame; unexamined out of frame. Please telephone the department on 020 7293 6424 if you have any questions regarding the present work.
"In response to your inquiry, we are pleased to provide you with a general report of the condition of the property described above. Since we are not professional conservators or restorers, we urge you to consult with a restorer or conservator of your choice who will be better able to provide a detailed, professional report. Prospective buyers should inspect each lot to satisfy themselves as to condition and must understand that any statement made by Sotheby's is merely a subjective, qualified opinion. Prospective buyers should also refer to any Important Notices regarding this sale, which are printed in the Sale Catalogue.

Catalogue Note

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.