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John Piper A Retrospect of Churches GOLDMARK

Stop Press a date for your diary SUNDAY 27th SEPTEMBER 2009 A PIPER FEST AT GOLDMARK GALLERY • Launch of Frances Spalding’s new biography of John Piper, published by OUP • A chance to meet the author who will sign copies • Launch of the new Goldmark film on Piper • Special launch deal on the book and film • Selling exhibition of over 100 Piper prints Contact us for an invitation 01572 821424

John Piper A Retrospect of Churches 1964


Photo by Martin Harrison

John Piper - A Retrospect of Churches

In 1963/64 Piper produced a portfolio of twenty-four prints entitled A Retrospect of Churches and he wrote to his old friend John Betjeman asking him to contribute a foreword to accompany them saying, and I have visited a large number of these churches separately or together over the years. This is a retrospect of some of these churches and a retrospect of the lithographic art as I have tried to understand it over the same long period … As Betjeman’s foreword captured the essence of Piper’s art and passion for church architecture so well, the relevant part is quoted here:

John Piper … is a keen topographer and photographer and guide book writer and for those reasons has been into thousands of churches sketching and taking photographs. The more you look at churches the more you appreciate their varying atmospheres – whether the vicar is high or low or breezy or lazy or crazy. You notice too oddities of furnishing, hymn boards, oil lamps, electric lighting, pipes, wires and heating stoves. John Piper does not confine himself to one particular district or style of architecture. He enjoys the bold carving of the Normans on fonts and doors; the splendour of the great wool churches of flinty East Anglia and the towers and spires of the limestone belt stretching from Lincolnshire to Somerset. He

1. Redenhall, Norfolk: the tower 70.5 x 34 cm, ÂŁ2450

likes to show what time does to churches and the effect of lichens on country churches and smoke on town ones and decay on both. He responds to Renaissance monuments and to the mighty bulk of Hawksmoor’s East London churches which were built for postReformation merchants and sea-captains in days of growing commercial prosperity. He was the first artist to appreciate the originality and sense of scale of the great Victorian architects such as Street and Butterfield who had hitherto been dismissed as mere copiers of the Medieval. He was also the first to

recognise the visual appeal of non-conformist chapels. He enjoys the shock tactics of a man like S. S.Teulon who went further than Butterfield in deliberately flouting Gothic conventions. The accompanying lithographs are the distillation of half a century’s looking at churches. Piper was clearly pleased with Betjeman’s foreword because he wrote to him, ...the intro is very good indeed and I am delighted with it.

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2. St Anne's, Limehouse, London, by Nicholas Hawksmoor 70.5 x 48 cm, ÂŁ2250

John Piper and John Betjeman

John Piper’s deep and abiding interest in architecture and landscape developed from his schooldays and throughout his life he continued to draw, paint, photograph and write about those subjects. In 1937 he met the poet John Betjeman and quickly found they shared a passion for English church architecture and topography. Both of them collected late 18th and early 19th century ‘picturesque’ travel books illustrated with large plate engravings such as William Gilpin’s Tours and John ‘Warwick’ Smith’s Hafod. They remained lifelong friends and collaborated on many books and works with architectural and topographical themes.

For many years Betjeman was editor of the Shell Guides to English counties and he commissioned Piper to write the Oxfordshire volume. Piper also took most of the photographs. In 1939 the pair toured Shropshire and jointly wrote the guide for that county although publication was delayed until 1951 by the Second World War. For a time Betjeman and Piper were joint editors of the Shell Guides series before the latter took over as sole editor. During the war Sir Kenneth Clark commissioned Betjeman to write a monograph about Piper for the Penguin Modern Painters series which came out in 1944.


3. Gaddesby, Leicestershire: medieval stonework 67 x 47 cm, ÂŁ1750

4. Lewknor, Oxfordshire: textured walls, traceried windows 53 x 71 cm, ÂŁ2450

5. Christ Church, Spitalfields, London, by Nicholas Hawksmoor 71.5 x 47 cm, ÂŁ1750

6. Fotheringhay, Northamptonshire: medieval stone 48.5 x 68.5 cm, ÂŁ2250

7. Tickencote, Rutland: the Norman chancel arch 44 x 67 cm, ÂŁ1750

8. Exton, Rutland: monument by Grinling Gibbons, 1686 74.5 x 51.5 cm, ÂŁ1250

9. Leckhampstead, Berkshire: a Victorian church, by S. S. Teulon 67.5 x 47 cm, ÂŁ1950

10. Easton, Portland, Dorset: St George Reforne, an 18th century church among the quarries 63.5 x 50 cm, ÂŁ2450

11. Llangloffan, Pembrokeshire: the Baptist chapel 52 x 71 cm, ÂŁ1750

12. Llan-y-Blodwell, Shropshire: mid 19th century furnishing and painting 66.5 x 45.5 cm, ÂŁ1950

13. Kilpeck, Herefordshire: the Norman south door 72.5 x 51.5 cm, ÂŁ1250

14. Inglesham, Wiltshire: a rustic medieval interior 50.5 x 71 cm, ÂŁ1950

15. St Mary's, Paddington, by G. E. Street 69.5 x 48.5 cm, ÂŁ1950

16. Malmesbury, Wiltshire: the south porch 61 x 52 cm, ÂŁ950

17. St Nicholas, Liverpool: smoke-black dockland church 68 x 45 cm, ÂŁ2450

18. Warkton, Northamptonshire: monument by Vangelder, 1775 69.5 x 49 cm, ÂŁ1750

19. St Matthias, Stoke Newington, London, by William Butterfield 68.5 x 51.5 cm, ÂŁ2250

20. St James the Less, Westminster, by G. E. Street 49 x 64.5 cm, ÂŁ1500

21. North Grimstone, Yorkshire (East Riding): the deposition - detail from the 12th century font 73 x 53.5 cm, ÂŁ1250

22. Gedney, Lincolnshire: a tower in the Fens 77 x 51.5 cm, ÂŁ1950

SPECIFICATION A Retrospect of Churches was issued as a suite of 24 original lithographs in colour. The edition was limited to 75 copies of which five were not for sale. All copies were numbered and signed by the artist. The lithographs were printed from stone at the famous Curwen Studio, London under the supervision of the master lithographer Stanley Jones. The latter studied at the Slade under Ceri Richards and in 1956 won a scholarship to the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris where he specialized in stone and plate lithography. He joined the Curwen Press in the late 1950s, working with many great printmakers and eventually became Studio Director. Paper size 59.5 x 82 cm.

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front cover:

23. Rudbaxton, Pembrokeshire: 17th century monument, 19th century furnishings 46.5 x 64.5 cm, ÂŁ2250

24. St Kew, Cornwall: church in a hilly landscape 50.5 x 70 cm, ÂŁ1750

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John Piper  
John Piper  

A Retrospect of Churches