John Piper C.H. (British, 1903-1992) Stone Gate, Portland 71.8 x 102 cm. (28 1/4 x 40 1/8 in.) (Painted in 1950)

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Lot 25AR
John Piper C.H.
(British, 1903-1992)
Stone Gate, Portland 71.8 x 102 cm. (28 1/4 x 40 1/8 in.)

Sold for £ 62,548 (US$ 88,096) inc. premium
John Piper C.H. (British, 1903-1992)
Stone Gate, Portland
signed 'John Piper' (lower right)
oil on canvas
71.8 x 102 cm. (28 1/4 x 40 1/8 in.)
Painted in 1950

Footnotes

  • Provenance
    Lady Dugdale

    Exhibited
    London, Waddington Galleries, John Piper: A Retrospective, Works from the Artist's Studio, 12 January-5 February 1994, cat.no.16

    Literature
    Anthony West, John Piper, Secker and Warburg Ltd, London, 1979, p.142, no.125 (ill.b&w.)

    "My discovery of Portland was very important to me. I think it was in the late 1920s that I first went there in a very old Morris Cowley with Miles Marshall. I am a map-lover and Portland looks too extraordinary for words on the map, so does the adjoining Chesil beach. At that time Portland Bill was much more untidy, with great blocks of stone lying about on the low quarry shore in magnificent disarray...The foreshore is now more ship-shape, holiday makers come in crowds and there are ranks of beach huts. Inland too there is a lot of development but the character remains...large-scale, airy, maritime, naval, above all workaday, and not picturesque, except by accident." (John Piper's hand-written note in a sketchbook, exhibition catalogue, Waddington Galleries, John Piper: A Retrospective, Works from the Artist's Studio, 1994)

    Despite this early discovery, it was not until 1948 that Piper first painted Portland seriously. For roughly ten years after the war, Piper almost entirely gave up painting the well-known buildings that had dominated his post-abstract period. He instead turned his attention to deserted landscapes of Britain, eschewing scenes of obvious beauty in favour of those which exuded a quality of ancientness, areas which must have felt reassuringly lasting in the Post-War climate. The geography of Portland greatly suited this mood. The island's location seems almost precarious, jutting into the channel, and is strewn with large off cuts of the locally mined Portland Stone. Such blocks have been quarried on the island since Roman times and although man made, have a permanent quality which captivated Piper's attention. They are the focus of several compositions, including the canvas Stone Road, Portland (1954, University of Arizona Museum of Art, Tuscan), which is widely considered one of Piper's finest paintings, as well as several variations of the present composition all entitled Stone Gate, Portland. Among these there exists a handful of examples in oil, including a similarly sized canvas slightly muted in palette now in the Phillips Collection, Washington DC, a larger version only known from studio photographs (whereabouts untraced) and the present example which would remain in the Artist's possession throughout his life.

    Piper first exhibited his Portland works in America in October of 1950 at the Buchholz Gallery in New York. On that occasion he chose to include in his catalogue introduction Wordsworth's sonnet How Sweet it is, When Mother Fancy Rocks. As David Fraser Jenkins observes the sonnet 'unexpectedly associated the colours of a wild rose he had seen climbing above a hawthorn in a wood with a 'bold Girl' in a circus act, who stands haughtily on a clown's head. The implication was that the colour stones lying about at Portland had taken on the role of such a figure, alluring and brash, with their red and yellow colours of life borrowing floral colours as a sign of potential action' (David Fraser Jenkins and Hugh Fowler-Wright, The Art of John Piper, Unicorn Publishers and Portland Gallery, London, 2015, p.254-255).
Contacts
John Piper C.H. (British, 1903-1992) Stone Gate, Portland 71.8 x 102 cm. (28 1/4 x 40 1/8 in.) (Painted in 1950)
John Piper C.H. (British, 1903-1992) Stone Gate, Portland 71.8 x 102 cm. (28 1/4 x 40 1/8 in.) (Painted in 1950)
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