John Piper's modernist scenography

2019-04-11T10:22:32Z (GMT) by Claire Warden
As one of the pre-eminent British painters of the twentieth century, John Piper secured his legacy with his depictions of swirling seas, grand country houses, and secluded churches. However his contribution to the theatre is less well known. This paper aims to address this lacuna, focusing on his scenographic contribution to two modernist performances: Stephen Spender's Trial of a Judge (1938) and Edith Sitwell's Façade (1942). I aim to present Piper as a vital force in a British avant-garde theatre scene and to reimagine his canon of work as inherently theatrical. This theatrical element unites his diverse oeuvre, from his most abstract geometric collages to his most quintessentially English landscapes. This paper resurrects two often overlooked performances, and sheds new light on the cross-disciplinary nature of British modernist art and the importance of theatrical motifs for a thorough understanding of Piper's work.