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38 NADFAS REVIEW / SPRING 2011

www.nadfas.org.ukNADFAS REVIEW / SPRING 201139from 1936. It was the conviction thatabstraction went hand in hand with what had gone before that allows hispictorial art to be so readily appreciatedby the British public. His paintings ofbombed out churches in Coventry,Bristol, The City of London and Bath(1940-2), for instance, became iconic in a way that would have beenunthinkable for any other abstract artist. As a way of recording Britain theyare as effective as more "accurate"representational art.The present show comes hot on theheels of Frances Spalding's spiriteddouble biography, John Piper, MyfanwyPiper, Lives in Art (Oxford 2009), andoffers a survey over more than 50 years. The first painting dates to 1930,soon after Piper had left the RoyalCollege of Art early in order to marryEileen Holding, and the last exhibits are the cartoons for the stained glass at both Lamberhurst St Mary and Firle St Peter."Doing an exhibition on John Piper'swork is a logical continuation of a series of exhibitions on modern Britishartists, which has included Henry Moore and Graham Sutherland," saysthe exhibition curator by way ofexplaining the choice of this seminalEnglish painter. "But as we started researching wesaw how important the landscape ofKent and Sussex was to Piper's work -not just in the 1930s when he regularlystayed on the coast, but through to theend of his life. The location of thestained glass at Lamberhurst and the collection of Pipers at Scotney were an added push to arranging theexhibition." He might have added that the proximity of Glyndebournewhere Piper designed two of Britten'sLeft:Newchurch,Romney Marsh1947Below left:Scotney OldCastle1949Below:BeachScene 1933JOHN PIPERfind how familiar he could make theworld around seem when its individualelements are so rich and varied. It is no mean feat that Piper, with secondwife Myfanwy Evans who he married in1937, was able to shift taste towards agradual rebuilding of an English primitivetradition on abstract principles both inprint and in paint. That Piper even engaged with this at all is largely due to the profoundinfluence that Christopher Hussey's1927 book, The Picturesque, had had on him. Hussey, who gave boyhoodhome Scotney Castle to the NationalTrust at his death in 1970, argued thatthe Picturesque theorists of the 18thcentury were the true forefathers ofabstraction. This prompted Piper, withhis indefatigable companion the latePoet Laureate, John Betjeman, to gochurch-crawling with early travellers'guides in hand, confident that visitingold buildings was not a retreat into thepast but a way of investigating the veryroots of abstraction.Piper was also an accomplishedessayist, critic and writer, contributing to Edmund Blunden's Nationand writing for the Architectural ReviewImages: © Pallant House, Chichester; Private collection; Leeds Museum & Galleries (Leeds Art Gallery); Derby Museums and Art Gallery; Kettle'sYard, Cambridge; The National Trust, Scotney Castle; Britten-Pears Foundation