War Artist: John Piper

John Piper (1903-1992) was an English painter, printmaker, draughtsman, designer, and writer. He was an official war artist in WWII, and he is most well known for the paintings he completed during this time.

At the start of World War Two, Piper volunteered to work interpreting aerial photographs for the RAF, but was persuaded by Sir Kenneth Clark to work as an war artist for the War Artists’ Advisory Committee, which he did from 1940 to 1944. Piper was one of only two artists, the other being Meredith Frampton, commissioned to paint inside of Air Raid Precaution control rooms. Throughout the war, Piper worked for the Recording Britain project, initiated by Kenneth Clark, to paint historic sites thought to be at risk from bombing or neglect of care. He also worked under some private commissions during the war. He was commissioned by Viscount Ridley to produce a series of watercolours of Blagdon Hall, and this led to a commission from the Royal family for a series of watercolours of Windsor Castle and Windsor Great Park, which Piper completed by March 1942.

Most of his paintings are landscapes of various buildings and towns that had been destroyed or severely damaged during the war, and presents a erie and unique kind of landscape painting. The contrast between what traditional landscapes are and what Pipers are shows how truly destructive war is. Piper captures the absolute devastation that war bring to a landscape, and though his work was originally meant to be documenational it can act as a counter to war, and artistic evidence of its destruction. Instead of focusing on the beauty of the architecture or environment that landscapes traditionally embody, his work captures the ugly and the destroyed, caused by war.





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