Jazenne, Charente

John Piper (1903 - 1992)



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  • About the work
    Country: UK
    City: London
    Place: Foreign & Commonwealth Office, Whitehall
    Jazenne, Charente, a screenprint by John Piper, focuses on the striking façade of the Romanesque church at Jazennes in the Charente-Maritime region of southwest France. Architectural subjects, especially ecclesiastical designs from France, Italy and England, commonly featured in Piper’s prints and paintings. His images are often elemental, devoid of people and focused on architecture. In this print, the church is lit dramatically from the left side of the composition, creating deep shadows along the right side of the façade. The building takes on an imposing character, as striking as a theatrical backdrop.  From the mid 1950s, Piper travelled frequently in France and took numerous trips to Charente, Toulouse, Moissac and the Dordogne. 

    Piper employed many different printmaking techniques to highlight his love of architecture and the joy he derived from working in the medium. He used various different types of marks to create texture: from quick washes and scribbled lines, to dense inked areas where highlights are scraped away. He is widely acknowledged for his depictions of landscapes and buildings in Italy, France, England and Wales. ‘I am a painter and draughtsman of landscape and architecture’, he once declared when asked to describe his subject matter. However, he was not simply a topographical artist, he also used his artistic vision ‘... to express a personal love of country and architecture and the humanity that inhabits them’.

  • About the artist
    John Piper was born in Epsom, Surrey and worked in his father’s solicitors’ firm until 1926. He later studied art in Richmond and London. Meeting Braque in Paris inspired him to make abstract art and to exhibit with the Seven and Five Society (1934–35). In 1935 Piper collaborated with Myfanwy Evans (later, his wife) on the pioneering review, ‘Axis’. He abandoned abstract art for Neo-Romanticism and during the Second World War, as an Official War Artist, he recorded bomb-devastated buildings of England’s disappearing architectural heritage. A versatile artist, Piper made book illustrations, theatre designs, ceramics, stained-glass and textiles. Retrospectives were held at the Museum of Modern Art (Oxford, 1973) and the Tate (1983–84).
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    Jazenne, Charente
    Purchased from Marlborough Fine Art, March 1970
    GAC number