John Piper’s Festival of Britain Mural, Queen Elizabeth Hall, April-May 2011
British Design 1948-2012, 2012, Victoria and Albert Museum
The Englishman’s Home was painted in 1950 in the garden of the Artist’s home, Fawley Bottom, Oxfordshire.
It was one of the key images of the Festival of Britain and is its largest surviving work of art. When the incoming Conservative government attempted to cut back on the cost and scale of the Festival Hugh Casson, the Festival’s director, singled out Piper’s contribution as the one mural on the South Bank we cannot afford to lose.
John Piper and Osbert Lancaster were the main designers of the South Bank pleasure Gardens for the festival. The Englishman’s Home adorned the exterior wall of the Homes and Gardens Pavilion.
Sir Frederick Gibberd, masterplanner of Harlow, selected this mural to be gifted to Harlow at the end of the Festival of Britain.
The mural was initially entrusted to the Harlow Development Corporation and then when the Harlow Art Trust was formed in 1953,the Trust took charge of all four works inherited from the Festival of Britain: Barbara Hepworth’sContrapuntal Forms and three large murals; Boats by Alan Sorrell, 1851 by Leonard Manasseh andThe Englishman’s Home by John Piper. The decision to gift these four pieces to the Harlow Art Trust was approved by the Minister of Housing and Local Government (The Rt. Hon. Hugh Dalton).
On the completion of Harlow Technical College in the early 1960s, the mural was installed in the Assembly Hall at the College. John Piper oversaw the installation of both this mural and a second mural commissioned for nearby St Paul’s Church. The installation of The Englishman’s Home involved removing a small section to make way for the entrance to the hall.
The mural remained at the College until 1992 when the building was firstly modified and later demolished and the College relocated to a new site.
Reading from left to right the first yellow building remains unidentified, followed by the Brighton Bow fronts of Regency Square, a Victorian villa (St Martin’s Avenue, Epsom, Surrey where Piper’s Mother’s lived), 6 Station Road, (Yeovil) with Kirby Hall behind and the Royal Arms over the gateway of East Barsham Manor in Norfolk to the right, followed by the dome of Castle Howard, Yorkshire, adapted slightly for compositional effect, (also incorporating aspects of the Sheldonian Theatre in Oxford), with Owlpen Manor in Gloustershire to the right. Hillside Terraces, Brighton are depicted top right. The building to the far right remains unidentified.
IN 1951 The Peggy Guggenheim Collection at the Palazzo Venier dei Leoni in Venice opened to the public.
New buildings, for The Festival of Britain, based on London’s South Bank, included The Royal Festival Hall by Leslie Martin, Peter Moro and Robert Matthew, Dome of Discovery by Ralph Tubbs.and Skylon by Philip Powell, Hidalgo Moya and Felix Samuely. Sculptures included Youth Advancing by Jacob Epstein; Reclining Figure: Festival by Henry Moore; Contrapunctal Forms and Turning Forms by Barbara Hepworth with Murals by Mary Fedden, Josef Herman and John Tunnard.
Exhibitions included Sixty Paintings for ’51 at the RBA Galleries] and a show of popular and traditional art, Black Eyes & Lemonade, organised by Barbara Jones at the Whitechapel Gallery.
ARTWORKS created in 1951 included:
Henri Matisse interior decoration of Chapelle du Rosaire de Vence.
Salvador Dalí – Christ of Saint John of the Cross
Lucian Freud – Interior in Paddington
Barnett Newman‚ Vir Heroicus Sublimis
Pablo Picasso‚ Massacre in Korea
Robert Rauschenberg‚ White Paintings
Humphrey Ocean and Jack Vettriano were born in 1951.
Wilfrid de Glehn, (b. 1871) and Frank Newbould (b. 1887) died in 1951.