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John Piper, Littlestone on Sea, 1936

 ‘I carried about a portfolio full of torn and cut strips of paper of different colours, (and a variety of shades of the same colour) saved or picked up at random and in the heat of the moment, stuck or pinned insecurely, then applied more carefully at leisure in the studio.’
From Piper’s Places: John Piper in England and Wales, 1983 

About the artist

Piper was born in Epsom, Surrey. He studied locally and at the Royal College of Art, where he began to develop as a landscape painter and as a critic. He co-edited, with his second wife Myfanwy Evans, the ultra-modern periodical ‘Axis’ (1935-37). However, he later moved away from abstraction and during his period as an Official War Artist (1940-42) he returned to landscape and architectural painting, becoming associated with the Neo-Romantic movement. From the early 1950s he toured the continent extensively, painting buildings, in France, Rome and Venice. He also occupied a number of important posts in the art world, serving as a Trustee of the Tate Gallery and on the Arts Council panel.

Where is it?

Littlestone-on-Sea is south of Dymchurch on the Kent coast. Piper frequented the south coast throughout the 1930s, making drawings and collages in tandem with his abstract works.

About this work

This mixed media collage (paper and pen and Indian ink) also features a sketch on the back of a cove. Piper was introduced to the work of Braque by Kettle’s Yard creator H.S. Jim Ede. Though Piper was influenced by Braque’s works in the technique he used, he tended to take the British landscape, often a seaside scene, as his subject.  In 1937, Piper wrote an article in which he identified the two most important, underlying subjects in his work. The first was a room and the second was the structure on a beach, or as he called it the ‘beach-machine.’ This landscape offered Piper both the possibility of man-made structures, such as the lighthouse, and also a vast range of inspiration from the changing natural climate of the beach and sea.