7 May 2012

John Piper and the Church in Dorchester Abbey

The English artist John Piper (1903-1992) was very much a contemporary of Graham Sutherland (1903-1980), who has been the subject of previous posts here. During the 2nd World War both men became war artists.  In the early 1960s designs by both men were juxtaposed in the new Coventry Cathedral, in the form of Piper’s (and Patrick Reyntiens’) stained-glass Baptistery Window and Sutherland’s tapestry. Piper had been interested in churches from his schooldays, but in his thirties, and under the influence of Ben Nicholson, he had become a promoter and producer of abstract art.

However, in the late 1930s he became friendly with John Betjeman who revived his interest in architecture, particularly that of religious buildings. An exhibition, John Piper and the Church, drawing on his work from that period onwards has been mounted in Dorchester Abbey (below), Dorchester-on-Thames, Oxfordshire by the Friends of Dorchester Abbey. Ostensibly the exhibition is to celebrate the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee but it also marks the 20th anniversary of Piper’s death. More than 70 works are on display, on paper and canvas, and in the form of church vestments and stained glass, all providing an excellent opportunity to admire Piper’s draughtsmanship and his imaginative use of colour.

The Friends’ ambitious undertaking is an undoubted success and worth travelling to Dorchester to see. John Piper and the Church continues until 10 June.

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