JOHN EGERTON CHRISTMAS PIPER
1903 – 1992
Nursery Frieze- Landscape
Frame size: 29 x 58½ inches / 73.5 x 148.5 cm
John Egerton Christmas Piper was born 13th December 1903 in Epsom, Surrey, he was the son of a solicitor, He was educated at Epsom College and trained at the Richmond School of Art, followed by the Royal College of Art in London. He turned from abstraction early in his career, concentrating on a more naturalistic but distinctive approach.
As a child, John Piper lived in Epsom which was, in those days, in the countryside. He would go exploring on his bike, and would draw and paint pictures of old churches and monuments on the way. He started making his own guide books at a young age, complete with pictures and information. He studied at Epsom College. He did not like the college but found refuge in the art school. When it came to finishing at Epsom College, Piper wanted to go to art school, to study to become an artist. However, Piper’s father Charles disagreed, and wanted him to be a solicitor like himself. They formed an agreement that John Piper would work for his father in London for three years, and then could pursue whatever career he chose. However, John failed the law exams. Charles Piper died soon after, so John was free to become an artist. His work often focused on the British landscape, especially churches.
Piper was appointed an official war artist in World War II from 1940-1942. The morning after the air raid that destroyed Coventry Cathedral, Piper produced his first painting of bomb damage, Interior of Coventry Cathedral now exhibited at the Herbert Art Gallery. Jeffery Daniels in The Times described the painting of the ruins as “all the more poignant for the exclusion of a human element”. It has been described as “Britain’s Guernica”. He collaborated with many others, including the poet John Betjeman (on the Shell Guides), as well as with the potter Geoffrey Eastop and the artist Ben Nicholson. In later years he produced many limited-edition prints.
Along with Patrick Reyntiens he designed the stained glass windows for the new Coventry Cathedral, and later for the Chapel of Robinson College, Cambridge. Washington National Cathedral prominently features his large window, “The Land Is Bright.” He also designed windows for many smaller churches. Piper created tapestries for Chichester Cathedral and Hereford Cathedral. He was a set designer for the theatre, including the Kenton Theatre in Henley and Llandaff Cathedral in Cardiff. He also designed many of the premiere productions of Benjamin Britten’s operas at Glyndebourne Festival Opera, the Royal Opera House, La Fenice and the Aldeburgh Festival, as well as for some of the operas of Alun Hoddinott.
Piper also wrote extensively on modern art in books and articles. With his wife, Myfanwy Piper, he founded the contemporary art journal, Axis.
John Piper died at Fawley Bottom, where he lived in Buckinghamshire, on 28 June 1992. His children include painters Edward Piper and Sebastian Piper, and his grandchildren include painter Luke Piper and sculptor Henry Piper.
This lithograph is illustrated in Art For Everyone Contemporary Lithographs Ltd by Ruth Artmonsky on Page 93. Published by Contemporary Lithographs Ltd, London.