New Quay View Added to Collection
25 October 2016
A painting of Exeter quay by John Piper (1903-1992), a leading figure in 20th century British Art, has joined the city’s collection thanks to support from the Art Fund, Arts Council England V&A Purchase Grant Fund and the Friends of Exeter Museums and Art Gallery.
The Quay, Exeter is the only known art work Piper has done of Exeter. Watercolour and collage are used skilfully to depict Exeter Custom House one of the city’s most iconic and historic buildings. It is the oldest known surviving custom house in the country and central to Exeter’s woollen export cloth trade during the 17th and 18th centuries.
Collage was a significant part of Piper’s work in the 1930’s, a time when he was moving away from his interest in abstract art to work which included far more representational elements. The image was published in an article entitled ‘Warmth in the West’ for Architectural Review, vol. 96, 1944, but it is entirely possible that the work was produced on an earlier trip to Devon in 1936. The only other work by John Piper held in Exeter is a large scale abstract mural which was commissioned in 1962 for the Corn Exchange.
John Piper’s output was hugely varied. He was a painter of architecture, landscape and abstract compositions, designer for the theatre and of stained-glass windows, and writer on the arts. His landscape work is described as amongst of the most iconic representations of British landscape.
He was also an official war artist. At the start of World War II he volunteered to work interpreting aerial reconnaissance photographs for the RAF but soon became a war artist for the War Artists Advisory Committee.
He collaborated with many others including poets John Betjeman and Geoffrey Grigson on the Shell Guides, a series of guidebooks on the countries of Britain aimed at the car driving tourist. He also worked with the potter Geoffrey Eastop as well as artist Ben Nicholson. In his later years he produced many limited edition prints.
See the artwork
This new acquisition is on display in Gallery 20 as part of the current exhibition of Exeter’s Fine Art which features a selection of drawings, watercolours and oil paintings from RAMM’s collection.
Fine Art Gallery Guided Tour
Assistant Curator of Art Michele Green will be leading a lunchtime tour Exeter’s Fine Art exhibition on Wednesday 23 November. Her talk will include the museum’s new acquisitions: Exeter Quay by John Piper and the extraordinary realistic illustrations from The Concise British Flora by William Keble Martin. £10 tickets are available online.
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