John Piper Stone of Bath



John Piper C.H. (British 1903-1992) STONES OF BATH, BLUE 'Stones of Bath' is one of five John Piper (1903-1992) designs commissioned by Arthur Sanderson & Sons in 1959 for their 1960 centenary celebrations. In 1962 Sanderson's screen printed 'Stones of Bath' on their Sanderlin fabric, a satinised linen which gave the design a shimmering, restless texture. This was ideally suited to the play of light depicted on the stone in the architectural repeat of buildings in the city of Bath. The abstract design is in shades of blue, green, violet, aubergine, chocolate and light brown, black, red, coral, yellow. A piece of this fabric, Cat. No. 74, which is in the collection of the V&A was exhibited at the John Piper retrospective held at the Tate Gallery, London, 1983.

From the mid-1940's Piper became increasingly involved in what he termed the 'delegated arts' handing over his designs to specialist craft makers. In 1941 he participated in the exhibition 'Designs for Textiles by Twelve Fine Artists' . In 1944 his first design for a textile was illustrated on the cover of International Textiles Magazine. This composition of vignettes of stately homes on a blue background was related to an article written by Piper .

In 1946 Ascher Limited gave Piper his first commission for a design that could be translated onto a silk square headscarf which was printed in 1947. In 1953, the exhibition 'Painting into Textiles' included a number of designs by Piper. Piper's first long-term working partnership was with David Whitehead Limited who produced fabric designs in 1954-5 from five abstracted paintings which featured strong use of colour and bold lines. Another collection of fabrics was produced in the late-1950's and the final "Living Art Fabrics' range in 1968.

Arthur Sanderson & Sons was established in 1860 in Islington as an importer of French wallpapers. The firm subsequently commissioned their own designs as well as importing. It was granted a Royal Warrant in 1951 after its papers were exclusively used to decorate the Royal Festival Hall and in 1955 another warrant was granted to supply Queen Elizabeth II. Piper started working with Arthur Sanderson when he was asked to design a stained glass mural for Sanderson House, a modernist building housing their London Showrooms commissioned to celebrate their centenary. In 1959 he was commissioned to design five fabrics; Stones of Bath, Chiesa de la Salute, Arundel, The Glyders and Northern Cathedral. Stones of Bath was the most popular. Neither completely abstract nor entirely representational, with a glimpse of ancient architecture in an abstracted landscape, he expresses the city of Bath as unspoilt and timeless. At this time Sanderson were the only company with the technology to automatically screen-print up to twenty colours at the time which suited Piper's complex and subtle use of colour and the screen printing process allowed for textile designs with much larger pattern repeats than had been possible before. From the late 1950's to the early 60's there was interest in painterly textiles that demonstrated the unique potential of screen printing, with its ability to capture the quality of brush-stroked colour.

"The monumental grandeur of many artists' textiles in the early 1960's was necessary if they were to work in the large scale architectural interiors of the era which witnessed a rapid growth in new public buildings, all which required furnishing with suitably prestigious fabrics".

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