Piper was an English painter, print-maker and designer of stained glass windows and theatre sets. His work often focused on the British landscape, especially churches and monuments and included tapestry designs, book jackets, screen-prints, photography, fabrics and ceramics. He was educated at Epsom College and trained at Richmond School of Art, followed by the Royal College of Art, London. He turned from abstraction early in his career, concentrating on a more naturalistic approach. As well as being official war artist in World War II, he also collaborated with many others including the poets John Betjeman and Geoffrey Grigson on the Shell Guides and the artist Ben Nicholson. In later years he produced many limited edition prints.
John Piper, CH (1903-1992), The Congreve Monument, Stowe,
Ink, wash, gouache and collage
27½ x 21⅝ in (70 x 55 cm)
Signed ‘John Piper’ (lower right)
Collection: Private Collection, Canada.
Exhibited: London, Leicester Galleries, November 1962, where purchased by Mrs. M. Snell.
The Congreve Monument was built by Lord Cobham at Stowe as a memorial to his friend the playwright William Congreve (1670-1729). It was designed by William Kent in 1736 and is now a Grade 1 listed structure. The monument features a monkey atop a slender pyramid, admiring himself in a mirror. Beneath there is a large urn in bas-relief, decorated with three faces, below which are various carvings.
Piper was painting at Stowe as early as 1940, where he drew the Congreve Monument as part of the Recording Britain series. Stowe and its grounds remained a favourite subject of his, which he returned to frequently, culminating in the book of views of Stowe published in 1983.