20th Century British Art

John Piper (1903-1992)   BIOGRAPHY

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The Englishman's Home, 1951
Unframed (ref: 4392)

Oil on 42 panels, each panel 62 5/8 x 46 7/8 in. (159 x 119 cm.)

(187 3/4 x 609 in. (477 x 1547 cm.) overall)

 

Provenance: Harlow Art Trust
Exhibited:  The Festival of Britain, 1951, The South Bank
A Tonic to the Nation, 1976, Victoria and Albert Museum



The Englishman's Home was painted in 1950 in the garden of the Artist's home, Fawley Bottom, Oxfordshire.

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It was one of the key images of the Festival of Britain and is its  largest surviving work of art. When the incoming Conservative government attempted to cut back on the cost and scale of the Festival  Hugh Casson, the Festival's director, singled out  Piper's contribution as the one mural on the South Bank we cannot afford to lose.

John Piper and Osbert Lancaster were the main designers of the South Bank pleasure Gardens for the festival.  The Englishman's Home adorned the exterior wall of the Homes and Gardens Pavilion.

Sir Frederick Gibberd, masterplanner of Harlow, selected this mural to be gifted to Harlow at the end of the Festival of Britain. 

The mural was initially entrusted to the Harlow Development Corporation and then when the Harlow Art Trust was formed in 1953, the Trust took charge of all four works inherited from the Festival of Britain: Barbara Hepworth’s Contrapuntal Forms and three large murals; Boats by Alan Sorrell, 1851 by Leonard Manasseh and The Englishman’s Home by John Piper.  The decision to gift these four pieces to the Harlow Art Trust was approved by the Minister of Housing and Local Government (The Rt. Hon. Hugh Dalton).

On the completion of Harlow Technical College in the early 1960s, the mural was installed in the Assembly Hall at the College.  John Piper oversaw the installation of both this mural and a second mural commissioned for nearby St Paul’s Church.  The installation of The Englishman’s Home involved removing a small section to make way for the entrance to the hall. 
 

The mural remained at the College until 1992 when the building was firstly modified and later demolished and the College relocated to a new site.

Reading from left to right the first yellow building remains unidentified, followed by the Brighton Bow fronts of Regency Square, a Victorian villa (St Martin’s Avenue, Epsom, Surrey where Piper’s Mother’s lived), 6 Station Road, (Yeovil) with Kirby Hall behind and the Royal Arms over the gateway of East Barsham Manor in Norfolk to the right, followed by the dome of Castle Howard, Yorkshire, adapted slightly for compositional effect, (also incorporating aspects of the Sheldonian Theatre in Oxford), with Owlpen Manor in Gloustershire to the right. Hillside Terraces, Brighton are depicted top right. The building to the far right remains unidentified.



John Piper (1903-1992)

Painter, notably of architecture and landscape, designer of stained glass and for the theatre, and writer, born in Epsom, Surrey. His first wife was the artist Eileen Holding, his second the writer Myfanwy Evans, and his son the artist Edward Piper. Form 1921-6 studied law and worked in his father’s solicitor’s office before studying at Richmond and Kingston Schools of Art and Royal College of Art, 1926-9.

In mid-1930s after a visit to Paris concentrated on abstract painting, but then reverted to representational work. First solo show, of collages and drawings, at London Gallery, 1938. Member of LG in 1033 and 7 & 5 Society, 1934-5. Piper was a prolific writer, working for The Athenaeum, New Statesman, Nation and Architectural Review, publishing his first guide book in 1938. With his wife he produced the influential Axis – a Quarterly Review of Contemporary “Abstract” Painting and Sculpture, 1935-7. From 1940 for about 20 years had one-man shows with Leicester Galleries. His ballet designs included The Quest, 1943 and Job, 1948, as well as operas for Benjamin Britten. Piper was an Official War Artist in World War II. In 1942, he published his best-selling monograph English Romantic Artists. Was on several occasions a trustee of Tate Gallery, member of the Arts Council panel and a member of Royal Fine Art Commission. Stained glass window designs included Coventry Cathedral and Christchurch College Chapel, Oxford. Made Companion of Honour, 1972. Retrospectives were held at Museum of Modern Art, Oxford, 1979, and Tate Gallery, 1983. Goldmark Gallery, Uppingham gave Piper centenary shows in 2002 and 2003 and Pallant House Gallery, Chichester, one in 2003, the year that Dulwich Picture Gallery staged John Piper in the 1930s and Sherborne House, Dorset, its exhibition John Piper: A Versatile Artist. The Tate, Arts Council and many provincial galleries hold his work. Died at Fawley Bottom, Oxfordshire.

 

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