National Museum of Art Lecture Series: John Piper - an artist in time and in history
With Professor Frances Spalding, CBE
Who was John Piper ? How did he become so famous in his day? And why, since his death in 1992, has his work been so very much to the fore in books, cultural discussions and art exhibitions?
Piper, it now seems, is a key figure in the history of twentieth-century British Art. He was both committed to the new, but also passionately interested in the past and sought to revive, in modern terms, certain native traditions.
Few would deny that, by the late 1930s in England, a concerted project of national self-discovery was underway. But surely this was a shameful retreat? Didn’t it mean a return to the past, to safe traditions and to a ‘Little England’ mentality, after the wider and more progressive embrace of international modernism? Or is present-day talk of a modern English renaissance justified?
This talk looks at Piper’s contribution to a cultural shift which, as it unfolded fully in the 1940s, proved bold, timely and necessary, and of undeniable cultural significance.
Frances Spalding is an art historian, critic and biographer. She has written extensively on twentieth-century British art and is currently Professor of Art History at Newcastle University. She is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature and an Honorary Fellow of the Royal College of Art. In 2011 she published the comprehensive account of the life and work of John Piper, John Piper, Myfanwy Piper: Lives in Art.
Supported by the Art Fund.