Saturday, February 11, 2012

All things Welsh - John Piper

Jagged Rocks under Tryfan, 1949-50 courtesy of Cardiff Museum
A favourite artist of mine, National Museum of Wales have a show of his mountain paintings of North Wales.  Apparently 'Piper had been commissioned by the WAAC to paint the cavern inside Manod, where a good part of the National Gallery was being stored' in 1945.  He wanted to paint Pistyll Cain waterfall, and also Cader Idris, on the way he came to the picturesque Rise of the Dovey which is featured in the Museum show, its lake surrounded on all sides by steep mountains.
In Frances Spalding's book she says of this painting, 'the sense of scale, the restrained drama of light and atmosphere, and the originality in the handling of colour all tell of his admiration for late Turner'.
Nant Ffrancon Valley, Snowdonia. Photo courtsey  Peter Bond - Creative commons license

Anyway he rents a cottage called Pentre, the rent was £35 a year.  But later moves to another cottage up the valley a hafod  of the farmer, the valley was over half a mile long, 'hemmed in by steep hills and through which winds a small river.  Glacial rubbish lay strewn over the hillsides and created heaps of loose blocks in the valley, beneath which, in places could be heard the tinkling sound of water'..

Richard Wilson - Cader Idris 

Sounds idyllic but anyone who knows Wales, will understand the difficult terrain of rocks and stones, ankle breaking if you don't watch your step.  John Piper was influenced by an 18th century painter called Richard Wilson, looking at Wilson's paintings online they seem rather dull, but the  above painting is of Cader Idris.

Ref; Frances Spalding - John Piper, Myfanwy Piper.

Note; on meandering through the internet on the books John Piper was reading at the time, came across one online by Thomas Pennant - Tours in Wales  someone in the 18th century who had the time and money to produce many books.

There was also listed a great favourite of mine Gilbert White's - The History of Selbourne, which I will read eventually


  1. I haven't heard of John Piper, I have to say. Keith and I have been around the Gallery a few times, but I don't recall seeing any of his works on normal display (mind you, there ARE a lot of paintings there!) It sounds like he did his "starving in a garret" bit for his art, when he struggled to and from the little hafod (nice in summer, HELL in winter!)

    Will you try and get down to see the showing of his paintings?

  2. Hi, No, doubt it, too far away for a short trip. We are coming down in the middle of July with some American friends who want to see the various tombs, so we will see you then ;)
    John Piper by the way was very prolific, first came across him with his stained glass work in Devizes Museum....