John Piper (British, December 13, 1903–June 28, 1992) was a painter and book illustrator. He is regarded as one of the pioneers of Modern Art in Britain. Throughout his life, he wrote numerous articles and several books about Modern Art. Piper was born in Epsom, Surrey, and lived in Fawley Bottom, Buckinghamshire, UK, for most of his life.
As a boy, the artist rode his bicycle all over Surrey, and made sketches of churches and abbeys that he came across. He studied at Epsom College and was to join his solicitor father in his law practice, but it turned out Piper's heart wasn't in it, and upon the death of his father in 1927, Piper felt free to pursue a career in art. He went on to study art at the Richmond School of Art in London, UK. He then transferred to the Royal College of Art in South Kensington but eventually dropped out. He started out as an art and theatre critic as he tried to make it as an artist himself. During that time, he recognized the potential that artists such as Ivon Kitchens (British, 1893–1979) and William Coldstream (British, 1906-1987) had. Later on, Piper and his second wife started the Axis magazine, which was aimed at promoting Modern Art.
In 1931, his work started to be exhibited. Initially, his work had a strong Surrealist effect to it, thanks to influencers such as Georges Braque (French, 1882–1963) and Raoul Dufy (French, 1877–1953). After a trip to Paris, France, in 1934, Piper saw wire sculptures by Alexander Calder (American, 1898–1976) and experimented with the same medium when he got back home. During that trip, he also met Ben Nicholson (British, 1894–1982), who became a major influencer of his Abstract artwork. In 1938, Piper proclaimed that Abstraction was a luxury and returned to painting castles, piers, and churches. His best work was done in his distinct Romantic style. In 1944, he was the Official War Artist. One of his most famous works is the painting in which he depicted the bomb damage to the Coventry Cathedral. Later on, he collaborated with Nicholson, poet John Betjeman (British, 1904–1984), and potter Geoffrey Eastop (British, b.1921). Another one of his major works is the stained glass window in the Coventry Cathedral. His work has been shown at institutions such as the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford, the National Theatre in London, and the Tate Britain. Piper was a member of the Royal Fine Art Commission for 19 years. The artist died on June 28, 1992.