The pictures John Piper made of the mountains and rock formations of Snowdonia are held to be among his greatest works.

From the late 1930s to the early 1950s he rented two cottages in the area, using them as bases during his travels around the landscape. His work captured the complex, semi-abstract forms and rich colours of the Welsh mountains. This group of 20 works – three oil paintings, 13 watercolours of Snowdonia, two watercolours of the Vale of Clwyd and Llansantffraid Llanon, and a pair of rare monotype prints – shows the breadth and quality of the art Piper produced during this period. Born in Epsom in 1903, the youngest son of a solicitor, John Piper overcame opposition from his family to train as an artist. He first studied at Richmond College of Art and then at the Royal College of Art, where he identified himself with progressive movements in art, literature, music and politics. In 1934 he was invited to join the Seven and Five Society – a London-based group of seven painters and five sculptors created in 1919 that included Ben Nicholson, Henry Moore and Barbara Hepworth. Early in his career, Piper developed a fascination with Wales and its landscape. By the late 1930s he had married Myfanwy Evans, an art critic and librettist from a Welsh family, and begun penning architectural studies of Welsh chapels. In the summer of 1941 he visited Llanthony Priory in the Black Mountains and two years later he was commissioned to paint the man-made cavern inside Manod Mawr in Gwynedd. His enthusiasm for the landscapes he discovered in Wales drew him back annually until 1950. These 20 pieces were exhibited at Amgueddfa Cymru – National Museum Wales in their 2012 exhibition 'John Piper: The Mountains of Wales'. The works were loaned to the museum by Robin Cohen, who has accumulated perhaps the finest collection of Piper's work in the UK, assembled gradually and with discrimination – works that Cohen judged too poor for inclusion were rejected. They are currently on display at National Museum Cardiff's exhibition 'Wales Visitation: Poetry, Romanticism and Myth in Art' alongside pieces by artists including David Jones, Richard Long and Graham Sutherland.

This work was acquired with assistance from the Wolfson Foundation.


Private collection.

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