John Piper (1903-1992)

Fawley VI (Painted in 1989)

Signed “John Piper” (lower right); titled FAWLEY VI (on the stretcher)

Oil and sand on canvas

50.8 x 91.5 cm (20 x 36 ins)

Exhibited: John Piper, Waddington Galleries, 1989, where acquired by previous owner

This painting is part of the final flowering of Piper’s prodigious talent, when he was confined largely to his house and garden, Fawley Bottom near Henley-on-Thames, where he had lived since 1935. In the catalogue to the 1989 exhibition, the Tate curator and Piper expert, David Fraser Jenkins, described these works as ‘amongst the best of his whole career,’ demonstrating a ‘startling freedom. Rarely has his work seemed so very personal.’ One can imagine the artist lying down and looking up at the sky at the bottom of his garden where the plants and foliage had been allowed to grow freely, greedily absorbing the sun’s rays. The paintings, Jenkins wrote, ‘were all begun with a wide brushed coating of white mixed with sand to give a rough surface. The prominent blacks almost obscure the light, left shining through in places like the opening of a cave.’ Is this the dying of the light in all its glory, or the triumph of light over dark…or perhaps both?