National Museum Wales buys £1m John Piper art collection

  • 20 February 2014
  • From the section Wales
Media captionThe paintings are mostly landscapes of Snowdonia

A major collection of works by the artist John Piper has been bought by National Museum Wales.

The paintings, which largely consist of landscapes of Snowdonia, have been purchased for about £1m.

Although he wasn't Welsh, Piper spent years documenting the mountains, rivers and valleys of Wales.

Born in 1903 in Epsom, Surrey, he also painted buildings and Welsh landmarks including Llanthony Abbey in Monmouthshire, and was renowned as an artist of the neo-Romantic style.

Some of the paintings in the newly-acquired collection are going on display this weekend at National Museum Cardiff as part of an exhibition inspired by Wales's folklore and landscape.

The collection has been bought from a private collector with links to Wales, and will make National Museum Cardiff a centre for the study of Piper's works.

The John Piper collection is worth £974,000 and has been paid for with contributions from the Heritage Lottery Fund, the Derek Williams Trust and the Art Fund. The works were previously exhibited at the museum in 2012 while they were still under private ownership.

Image copyright john piper
Image caption A detail of Rock Valley

Director general of National Museum Wales, David Anderson, said the previous exhibition reinforced his desire to acquire the collection.

"The success of the exhibition of works by John Piper in 2012 confirmed to us how popular the artist is to the people of Wales, and therefore how important it is to add to the representation of his work in the national collection.

"Thanks to the extremely generous contributions of the Heritage Lottery Fund, the Derek Williams Trust and the Art Fund, we have been able to do just that.

"Worth around £1m, we couldn't even consider purchasing these works alone," he said.

Piper's first major painting trip to Wales occurred in 1936, shortly after marrying his second wife Myfanwy.

On that occasion he visited Pembrokeshire and Cardiganshire, but would return during the 1940s when he was employed as an official war artist.

In 1943 he was commissioned by the War Artists Advisory Committee to record the interior of Manod Mawr quarry at Blaenau Ffestiniog, where many of London's valuable works of art were stored to avoid damage during the blitz.

Image copyright john piper
Image caption A detail of Rocks at Capel Curig
Image copyright John Piper
Image caption A detail of Rock Formations

He died aged 88 in 1992, having been a prolific artist throughout his life.

Piper was a particular favourite of the Cardiff-based art collector Derek Williams, whose trust has contributed towards the purchase of this latest collection. Mr Williams died in 1984 leaving a large estate which has been used to fund the acquisition of new works of art at National Museum Wales.

John Thomas-Ferrand, deputy chair of the Derek Williams Trust, said "Our support for this acquisition was unequivocal in that it continues the thread of John Piper's work running through the original collection of Derek Williams of which there were 24 including A Ruined House and Capel Curig.

"The artist was highly regarded by Derek and the Trustees are delighted to have been able to help the National Museum to further expand its holding in this way, particularly of an artist with such strong links to Wales."

Works from the John Piper collection will be displayed as part of the Wales Visitation exhibition, which opens on Saturday at National Museum Cardiff.

Image copyright John Piper
Image caption A detail of The Rise of the Dovey

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