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John Piper’s Mountains of Wales at National Museum Cardiff

— February 2012

Associated media

John Piper, The Rise of the Dovey, 1943–4, oil on gessoed canvas mounted on board, private collection © The John Piper Estate

The great contribution made by John Piper  (1903–92)  to 20th-century British art is celebrated in a new exhibition at National Museum Cardiff. Paintings and Drawings from a private collectionwill be on display inJohn Piper: The Mountains of Wales from 11 February – 13 May 2012.

One of the most versatile British artists of the twentieth century, John Piper’s work encompasses portraiture, landscape, architectural studies, still life, ceramics and design for stained glass and tapestry. Piper’s interest in landscape and architecture extended to all areas of Britain.

This exhibition presents an outstanding group of Piper’s views in Snowdonia, from a private collection. The mountains of North Wales provided a key source of inspiration to Piper from the early 1940s to the mid-1950s, during which time he rented two cottages in the Snowdonia area, Pentre in the Nant Ffrancon Valley and Bodesi, near Llyn Ogwen opposite Tryfan. Using these as a base, he travelled round this landscape, capturing the complex, semi-abstract forms and rich colours of the mountains. There are 29 works from the private collection and 36 works in all in the exhibition.  

John Piper’s first significant encounter with North Wales came when he was working as an official war artist during the Second World War. In 1943 the War Artists Advisory Committee commissioned Piper to record the interior of Manod Mawr quarry. This sparked an intense period of recording the mountains of Wales in a group of works that form one of his greatest achievements.  

Melissa Munro, Derek Williams Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art, Amgueddfa Cymru – National Museum of Wales, said,  ‘We are delighted to put on this exhibition and would like to thank the following organisations for their generous contributions, the Colwinston Trust, the Paul Mellon Centre and the Derek Williams Trust.At its core is an exceptional group of Piper’s paintings of Snowdonia made around 1943–51 – nearly all these come from a single private collection, so to have them on display for the public to see is wonderful.’
The exhibition has received generous support from the Colwinston Trust, the Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art and the Derek Williams Trust.  It is accompanied by an exhibition catalogue by the exhibition curator Melissa Munro, including an essay by David Fraser Jenkins, formerly Senior Curator at Tate.

The exhibition will be touring to Oriel y Parc, St Davids, Oriel Mostyn, Llandudno and the Whitworth Art Gallery, Manchester in 2012–13.

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