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Up close and personal

I mentioned this exhibition at Henley’s River & Rowing Museum by the British modernist artist John Piper in my Muddy Guide last week, but I’ve since visited myself it’s so fab I want to flag it up properly to you.


Nude, 1971


Eye and Camera, c1966 in mixed media

I have to admit that I wasn’t massively familiar with John Piper’s work, despite his high profile collaborations with the likes of Henry Moore, WH Auden and Geoffrey Eastop.


Stained glass window



Piper’s set designs for the theatre

Possibly his refusal to stick to one discipline affected his international profile, but Piper believed that to be creative was to be inspired by all mediums and ideas, and so he painted, sketched, designed stained glass windows and textiles, created set designs and even found time to make pottery.


Girl with Sunflower Platter, Geoffrey Eastop & John Piper, 1979

The exhibition here is permanent, a testament to Piper’s proximity to Henley – he lived much of his life in Fawley Bottom on the Stonor Park estate, and so much of his art has a charming local touch with Henley, Windsor, and Bucks featuring heavily. I thought it would be in the small downstairs gallery space, but instead the Piper exhibition sits in a large area upstairs, with a segment of the permanent exhibition that will revolve with new works throughout the year. It’s a beautiful space, don’t you think? Very easy to navigate the different phases of his life and work too.



It’s definitely worthy of your attention, and if you catch it before 7 Jan you’ll also be able to see the Matisse cutouts that are in the small lower gallery – interesting to see them close up, not least because it’s so clear to see how they’re literally chopped around with Henri’s domestic scissors.

The museum is open daily 10am – 5pm except for Xmas Eve & Xmas Day, Boxing Day, New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day, so it’s a good option over the hols if you’re crawling the walls.

River & Rowing Museum Mill Meadows, Henley on Thames, Oxfordshire, RG9 1BF. Tel: 01491 415600.


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