John Piper’s occasional depictions of England’s great Medieval cathedrals are less common than the paintings and drawings of remote country churches, but are similarly stylish and evocative.
Wells Cathedral is a mid-career work, probably dating from the 1960s. In this instance, by resisting the temptation to colour or otherwise over-dramatise the sky and foreground, Piper gives centre-stage to the architectural beauty and impact of the west front of the building. John Buckler (1770-1851) in his major early nineteenth century aquatint view of this cathedral (of which Piper was undoubtedly aware, and with which the view in the current lot has many similarities) did the same. With an impressive economy (relying on abbreviation and mere suggestion rather than a more slavish and detailed use of pen and brush) John Piper has conjured up the force, complexity and unity of his architectural subject whilst achieving an appropriately light, lyrical feel.
We are very grateful to Rev. Dr Stephen Laird FSA for preparing this catalogue entry.