A Retrospect Of Churches

John Piper's A Retrospect of Churches (1964) print portfolio captures the essence of historic churches in John Piper's colourful and richly textural style, highlighting their architectural grandeur and spiritual significance. Selecting old churches from across the British Isles, Piper delves into the rich history and beauty of these sacred spaces.

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Meaning & Analysis

A Retrospect Of Churches is a print portfolio comprising 24 original lithographs by John Piper, released in an edition of 75 in 1964, that explores his fascination with ecclesiastical architecture.

The portfolio showcases Piper's distinctive style, which combines bold shapes and vibrant colours to capture the essence of these religious structures. Through a series of prints, Piper takes the viewer on a journey through various churches, highlighting their unique features and capturing the spiritual ambience within. While also demonstrating his mastery of composition and perspective, Piper using different angles and viewpoints to emphasise the grandeur and intricacy of the churches. In the print Leckhampstead, Berkshire: A Victorian Church By S.S. Teulor, for example, Piper chooses an abstract composition - areas of rectangular relief and red block colour amid a textural black field - to reflect the blocky architecture of the church, which is built in vas hunks of local stone. As in this print, Piper's use of contrasting colours and strong line-work or block colour throughout adds a dimensional quality to the prints, creating a sense of space within the static medium.

Piper's choice of subject matter is significant within his oeuvre. By focusing on churches, he not only showcases their architectural beauty but also invites contemplation on their historical and cultural significance. Ecclesiastical architecture was a specialist interest of John Piper's; a writer of books, as well as a creator of art, titles by John Piper include a thesis on Stained Glass: Art or Anti-Art?

A Retrospect Of Churches highlights Piper's deep understanding of light and its transformative power. He skilfully captures the interplay of light and shadow, illuminating the architectural details and creating a sense of drama and atmosphere. This interplay between light and form adds depth and dimension to the prints, making them come alive with a sense of spirituality and reverence. Overall, this is a compelling print portfolio that showcases Piper's artistic brilliance and his ability to capture the essence of ecclesiastical architecture. Through his bold use of colour, composition, and light, Piper creates a series of lithographs that document the beauty of British churches and evoke a profound emotional and spiritual response from the viewer.

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