John Piper C.H. (1903-1992)
Watercolour and gouache on paper; executed 1969
Titled and dated lower left ‘Garn Fawr 12 VIII 69′
37×54 cm (14.5 x 21.25″)
It was Piper’s wife, Myfanwy – whom he met whilst she lived in London with her Welsh family – who first introduced Piper to West Wales in the 1930s. The Pembrokeshire landscape became his muse as it did also for Graham Sutherland, another great neo-romantic painter. Having lived in various parts of Wales in the post-war period, in 1962 the Pipers bought a cottage by Garn Fawr, on the Pembrokeshire Coast. Garn Fawr volcanic outcrop, the site of an Iron Age hill fort it had also been used as a high viewpoint during the First World War.
Having started out as an artist practising abstraction, Piper had moved more towards realism, and more towards depictions of buildings, by the stage he painted the present picture. However he continued with abstraction and it is possible here to imagine him on a warm summer’s day outside his cottage by the sea painting the landscape as he saw it. King George VI famously remarked to Piper, as he recorded Windsor Castle during the Second World War, “You seem to have very bad luck with your weather, Mr Piper.’ Here, instead, we have a more joyful picture; Piper’s dark and brooding habit having largely been dispatched by the glories of the Welsh countryside. The blue probably represents the sea, white horses or rocks the white shapes within. The different blocks of colour represent different fields, and flowers and plants the bright – and dark – splashes of colour ensuring that Piper’s characteristic darkness is not entirely absent.
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