Piper, John: Wall at Pentre – NOT AVAILABLE

A superb gouache and watercolour with pen and ink, this atmospheric painting originates from a key period in John Piper’s artistic life and has a fine provenance. The current owners of the picture tracked down the cottage at Pentre to find the original wall which remains intact and largely as Piper painted it all those years ago (see additional images). The picture is in the original frame and with the original mount and is accompanied by an original exhibition catalogue from the New York gallery where it was originally sold (see additional images).

‘Wall at Pentre’ was acquired by the present owners in June 2015 having been long-held in a private collection and was offered directly to the current owners without being put out for general sale. The work has therefore, no auction history, and has only been seen in public on two occasions since its first outing in New York in 1948.

In terms of provenance, the painting was exhibited:

  • at the Buchholz Gallery, New York February 3 – 21 1948, cat. no. 31;
  • at The Fine Art Society on April 23 1981,
  • at Portland Gallery, London (on loan) in ‘John Piper: Man and Nature’ September 26 – 28 October 2019.

The cottage at Pentre was the first property the Piper family rented in North Wales and is in the Nant Ffrancon valley area in Snowdonia. They rented the cottage for a year and although it needed plastering and furnishing, they got it ready and stayed there repeatedly until the autumn of 1946.

It was during this period that Piper became fascinated with the rock formations and dramatic landscapes in the area which he drew, painted and recorded in considerable detail. This included views of hills and peaks such as the Glyders which were to feature in later works, including textile designs. Piper also studied the stone walls that he found in the area, noting their methods of construction and the types of stone used. For all of these works including ‘Wall at Pentre’ Piper used a colour palette derived from the landscape that he was working in at the time.

During their time at Pentre, and subsequently at another cottage further up the valley in Bodesi, the Pipers tired of the frequency and heaviness of the Snowdonia rainfall and its effect on daily life; especially when they were in such isolation and distance from Bangor, the nearest town of any size. Myfanwy described how, “the water flowed in at the back door and out at the front” and given how the back of the cottage at Pentre is cut into the hillside this description most likely applies to when they stayed there.

More images can be provided on request.

Artist: John Piper (British, 1903-1992), signed lower right

Title and date: Wall at Pentre, 1946-47

Size: 36.5 x 50.0 cms.


Artist description:

Born in Epsom, John Egerton Christmas Piper studied at Richmond School of Art and the Royal College of Art from 1926-8. In the mid 1930a, after a visit to Paris, he turned to abstraction. He became a member of the London Group in 1933 and the ‘Seven and Five’ group in 1934-5. During this period he became friends with Oliver Simon of the Curwen Press and his interest in lithography and print making grew. During the Second World War, Piper was appointed as an official war artist recording the effects of the blitz on Britain’s buildings. After the war, he became a Trustee of the Tate and National Galleries and in 1959 he became a member of the Royal Fine Art Commission. Piper is best known for his extensive studies of British architecture and landscape in oil, watercolour and print, and for his photography, stained glass, ceramics, fabric design, murals, stage sets and costume design. His work is held in many Museums and Galleries.