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John Piper: The Fabric of Modernism

[ Exhibition )

Abstract design divided into 7 panels - 2 outer panels each with one of the elements at the top & a symbol of a gospel saint beneath. Cross & triangle of Holy Trinity over the 3 central panels.

John Piper, Study for Chichester Cathedral Tapestry, 1965, Gouache, crayon and ink on paper, Pallant House Gallery, Chichester (Accepted by HM Government in lieu of inheritance tax from the estate of John and Myfanwy Piper, 2002 and Adopted for Conservation by the Chichester Decorative and Fine Arts Society, 2006) © The Piper Estate / DACS

The first major exhibition to focus on John Piper’s textile designs, exploring key motifs in the artist’s work with over 80 pieces on display.

John Piper was one of the leading Modern British artists of the 20th century, best known for his paintings of Britain’s romantic heritage. His textiles are similarly littered with historic architecture, abstract and religious imagery, foliate heads, sunflowers and the church at Long Sutton.

Displayed alongside related paintings and studies, the exhibition demonstrated how Piper’s designs were connected with his wider work, which included the design of theatre sets and stained-glass windows.

Piper’s textile designs were not just intended for display. He created furnishing fabrics for Arthur Sanderson & Sons Ltd, scarves for Asher, ecclesiastical garments, and tapestries for cathedrals and other public spaces. Notably, Piper designed the celebrated altar tapestry for Chichester Cathedral, installed 50 years before this anniversary exhibition. The exhibition offered the studies for this piece alongside Piper’s Foliate Head Tapestries, woven to his designs at West Dean Tapestry Studio near Chichester.

The exhibition was accompanied by a new book by Simon Martin, with contributions by Frances Spalding, available from Pallant Bookshop.

What the press said

It is an invigorating show, dashing colourfully through Piper’s textiles, tapestries, church vestments, silk scarves and woolpile rugs with great brio.

Laura Freeman, The Spectator

A striking reminder that Piper was an artist who tried his hand at almost every aspect of creative art.

Richard Ingrams, The Lady

Through John Piper’s fabrics this intelligent exhibition illustrates how the artist reworked his ideas, themes and interests in various media, making modernism accessible to a far broader audience.

Rupert Toovey, West Sussex Gazette

Want to know more?

If you’re conducting research into this artist or another aspect of Modern British art and would like to use our library and archive, please contact Sarah Norris, Collections Manager on s.norris@pallant.org.uk.

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