An abstract painter in the 1930’s, John Piper was also a writer, critic and typographer and his love of architecture – especially medieval churches and stained glass, made him a highly sensitive observer of his surroundings. During the Second World War he became one of the best-known Official War Artists, creating powerful images of the destruction of Coventry Cathedral, the Houses of Parliament and the city of Bath, as well as recording a wide range of buildings, from derelict Welsh cottages to the grandeur of Windsor Castle. Piper’s friendships with figures from the worlds of literature, ballet and music led him in further creative directions. He worked on the Shell Guides to Britain with his close friend, John Betjeman and designed sets and costumes for the operas of Benjamin Britten. In his fifties he began to design stained glass, creating monumentally beautiful windows for the new Coventry Cathedral and the Metropolitan Cathedral in Liverpool, as well as tiny, jewel like lunettes for country churches near his home in Buckinghamshire. Piper’s love of architecture and landscape informed all his work, and in this lecture we’ll explore the many ways in which his interests and enthusiasm led to prolific creativity.
Jo Walton read history at Leicester University and went on to specialise in art and architecture of fifteenth century Italy in Oxford. She had a happy and successful twenty-year career in the book trade, eventually running a specialist art shop in London and working with auctioneers Christies. She also taught adult education classes in art history and, for twelve years, was a volunteer guide at Tate Britain and Tate Modern. Jo is now a freelance lecturer for the Arts Society, the Art Fund and Friends of Dulwich Picture Gallery and local art groups and societies.