Artist's love of churches on show at Abbey

Oxford Mail: Dorchester Abbey's rector, Canon Sue Booys, left, with curator and sponsor Patricia Jordan Evans Dorchester Abbey's rector, Canon Sue Booys, left, with curator and sponsor Patricia Jordan Evans

PAINTER John Piper’s love of the Church can now be witnessed in an exhibition at Dorchester Abbey.

For the first time, a temporary art gallery has been established at the abbey so visitors can get a close look at the artist’s lifelong fascination with church buildings, including the historic abbey, which he painted in 1973.

The artist, a founding member of the Friends of Dorchester Abbey, began sketching churches as a boy and went on to paint his favourites and create stained glass windows and tapestries.

The exhibition, which features images of St Bartholomew’s Church, Nettlebed, and Dunsden Church, opens on Saturday and runs until June 10. The £5 entry fee will go to the Friends of Dorchester Abbey to support its upkeep.

The rector, the Rev Canon Sue Booys, said: “It’s the first time we have had such a major art exhibition at the abbey and the first time that we have prepared a specially created gallery space. It is also the first time anyone has curated a collection to show Piper’s relationship with the Church.”

Patricia Jordan Evans, of the Bohun Gallery, Henley, curated the display of more than 70 works, called John Piper and the Church.

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She said: “At one point,John lived near Henley and would show his work at my gallery. He left a huge body of work and we are now realising what a significant 20th century artist he was.”

For the first time, ecclesiastical vestments designed by Mr Piper for Coventry Cathedral, Chichester Cathedral and St Paul’s Cathedral are on show together.

  • Painter and printmaker John Piper was born in Epsom, Surrey, in 1903, but had several links with Oxfordshire.

By the 1930s, he was gaining a reputation for his abstract painting, but switched to concentrate on a more naturalistic style and was appointed an official war artist in World War Two.

The artist, who was also well-known for working with poet John Betjeman on the Shell Guides, moved with wife Myfanwy in 1937 to Fawley Bottom, a hamlet on the edge of the Chilterns, near Henley, and lived there until he died in 1992.

The artist’s paintings, including those of Blenheim Palace, were recently displayed in a different exhibition at the palace.

  • For more details of the exhibition, click on the link below.

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