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Private Collection, UK


Ashmolean Museum Oxford, John Piper, 1992, cat no.1


This very early drawing is one of an extraordinary group that Piper made during the years just before he took up abstract art in 1934. He had already for some time painted the beaches and buildings of the south coast, but now he made the decisive move away from straightforward representation to an assertive style that put across his subject in a more concentrated way, here both idiosycratic and witty. David Jones had often painted in watercolour the view through the balcony of a south coast villa, transformed into a vision. Piper instead pursues the character of the typical seaside tea room, with doileys and silver paper from the table comically acting as part of the image of the room. The picture window above the striped wallpaper, looking out at the inevitable passing steamer, is caricatured, yet presented accurately as the key detail of such a scene. Both style and subject are a stand against good taste, liked by piper as characteristic of a certain kind of place. In the spring of 1933, at a time when he earned a living only from published criticism, Piper devoted two articles in The Listener on Young English Painters to Ivon Hitchens, Winifred and Ben Nicholson, Frances Hodgkins and Victor Pasmore, all of whom were enthusiasts for Modern French painting and for an art that exploited a variety of texture. This collage also owes a debt to French art, specifically to Braque’s paintings of the coast of Normandy. The prime pictorial target being the smooth surface of the creamware jug, put across by the contrast of the extravagantly rough application of the remainder of the painting. David Fraser Jenkins, excerpt from the exhibition catalogue John Piper, Ashmolean Museum, Oxford, 1992