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.


John Egerton Christmas Piper was born at Epsom in 1903, the son of a solicitor. Educated at Epsom College, Piper joined the family firm as an articled clerk until his father’s death in 1925. In 1926, having abandoned the study of law, he attended Richmond School of Art, transferring to the Royal College of Art, South Kensington in 1927. Though regarded foremost as a painter (elected a member of the Seven and Five Society in 1934), Piper was also a set designer for ballet and opera productions and for stained glass windows, as well as being an art and theatre critic. He was also a masterful topographical draftsman with a passion for architecture, nurtured by his close personal and professional relationship with John Betjeman, with whom he collaborated on the Shell Guides to the British Isles
He was a valued member of the Royal Fine Art Commission for nineteen years, as well as a trustee of both the National and Tate Galleries. Piper met and became close friends with Benjamin Britten through writing for the Architectural Review, and worked with him on several musical productions. His first contact with the stage was in the 1930s with the Group Theatre Company. In 1937 he divorced his first wife Eileen Holding and married Myfanwy Evans.
Piper volunteered for the RAF in 1940, but was instead commissioned by the War Artist’s Advisory Committee and was appointed Official War Artist in 1944.
The work of John Egerton Christmas Piper is represented in Bolton Art Gallery, the National Museums and Galleries of Wales and Tate Britain, London.


Exhibition at Ashmolean Museum, Oxford
Oriel 31 touring exhibition John Piper in Wales, with introduction by David Fraser Jenkins
Exhibitions of prints at Marlborough Graphics, CCA Galleries, Redfern Gallery, Oxford Gallery, Jersey Art Centre and in Toronto.
Exhibition at the National Theatre, London
November. John Piper, Tate Gallery, with comprehensive catalogue edited by David Fraser Jenkins
November. John Piper, Ceramics, Dan Klein Gallery (solo)
December. John Piper, Painting in Coloured Light, Kettle's Yard Gallery, Cambridge, introduction by Martin Harrison.
May-June. Museum of Modern Art, Oxford, John Piper: 50 years of his work: paintings, drawings and photographs. 1920-79
John Piper, Victorian Dream Palaces and Other Building in Landscape, Marlborough Fine Art (London) Ltd
September. John Piper, Marlborough Fine Art (London) Ltd.
August. Group exhibition Art Then. Eight English Artists; 1924-40, Scottish Arts Council.
March. John Piper, Marlborough Fine Art (London) Ltd
May. John Piper, European Topography 1967-69, Marlborough Fine Art (London) Ltd.
March. John Piper, Retrospective Exhibition, Ulster Museum, Belfast and tour
March. Group exhibition Axis, Circle, Unit One, Marlborough Fine Art.
March. John Piper, Retrospective Exhibition, Marlborough New London Gallery. Preface by Robert Melville.
March. Recent Work by John Piper, Marlborough New London Gallery.
May. Paintings and Watercolours of Rome by John Piper, Arthur Jeffress Gallery (solo)
May. Brittany, New Paintings by John Piper, Bear Lane Gallery, Oxford.
May. Paintings and Watercolours of Venice by John Piper, Arthur Jeffress Gallery.
November. John Piper, New Paintings and Gouaches, The Leicester Galleries
May. Recent Work of John Piper, The Leicester Galleries (solo)
John Piper, Retrospective Exhibition, Arts Council Gallery, Cambridge, catalogue by John Commander.
February. John Piper, oils, gouaches, watercolours The Philadelphia Art Alliance, USA.
November. Stones and Flowers, An Exhibition of New Pictures by John Piper, The Leicester Galleries (solo)
December. New paintings and Drawings by John Piper, The Leicester Galleries
Group exhibition British Contemporary Painters, Albright Art Gallery, Buffalo, USA.
October. Group exhibition National War Pictures, Royal Academy.
March. Group exhibition New Movements in Art, London Museum, Lancaster House.
Retrospective exhibition of work 1932-1940.
March. Paintings & Watercolours by John Piper, The Leicester Galleries. Subjects at Hafod (solo)
June. Group exhibition at Lefevre Gallery
July. Group exhibition British War Artists, National Gallery
Group exhibition Abstract and Concrete, Oxford, organised by Nicolette Gray, and at Lefevre Gallery, April.
April. Group exhibition Modern Pictures in Modern Homes, Duncan Miller Ltd
September. Group exhibition Contemporary Lithographs, The Leicester Galleries
Group exhibition Artists' International Association, 41 Grosvenor Square.
July. Work reproduced in Circle. Group exhibition Constructive Art, The London Gallery.
Exhibited constructions at Experimental Theatre, Finchley Road, reviewed by Hugh Gordon Porteus in AXIS 1
October 7th exhibits at final and exclusively abstract exhibition of 7 & 5 Society, Zwemmer Gallery
Exhibits with 7 & 5 Society at The Leicester Galleries (including 'String Solo')
Exhibition of gouache and collage landscapes of South Coast at Lefevre Gallery (no catalogue)
The London Group