John Piper at Dorchester-on-Thames

Increasingly it is possible to regard Piper as an extremely important artist of 20th C Britain. This is partly because of the efforts by his supporters to put on a wide variety of shows of his work, enabling the audience for such things to get a much greater perspective on the breadth of his talents than is available for many artists who are only seriously accessible through their random appearances in Sotheby’s and Christie’s. I was going to say “concerted” efforts, in that the group of active, exhibition-organising Piper supporters is small. But I am not sure they are all acting together in that sense. Instead, they are all passionate about his work and particularly about the fact that the art world has not valued that work highly enough yet for their liking.

I very much appreciate their efforts, concerted or otherwise. The voices which shout loudest for particular artists have sometimes managed to propel their favourites up the art charts unfairly. Those emanating from St Ives are the obvious example of this pattern and the distortions it causes. Sometimes the shouting voices are correct, in my view, to shout: Bacon would be my example of that (provided they are limiting themselves to his painting and not trying to praise all of  his utterances about art).

In the appropriate setting of Dorchester Abbey we find an excellent group of Piper’s work. I particularly loved seeing close to the copes and religious vestments that Piper designed for various places. They are powerful symbols of the religious artist’s work. But all the work is, in its own way, well worth seeing.

I wonder how many more shows we can squeeze in for this artist in the short term without viewer fatigue settling in, however refreshing and varied the work?