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This report is taken from PN Review 218, Volume 40 Number 6, July - August 2014.

Letter from Wales Sam Adams
We have recently acquired a small painting by John Piper. It is a gouache on paper, dating from about 1950, of a ‘Church near Rhyl, North Wales’. The church, which has an unusual gable-roofed bell tower, sits in the middle of the painting, a dark sky behind. In the foreground are other buildings, for the most part sombre, but heightened on one side by touches of red, signifying tiled roofs, and elsewhere by narrow vertical bands of pale yellow and blue. Between two blocks of dwellings in the foreground a vivid green oval lies on its side. At first glance the painting is almost abstract, but closer examination of the church reveals lozenge-shaped hatching on the roofs of tower and nave, clearly a distinctive feature, and a minute square outlined in black on the body of the green oval identifies it as a caravan.

A little research on the subject disclosed that this is St Mary’s in the parish of Towyn on the north Wales coast, one of those parts of Wales to have endured almost Noah-scale floods in the past few years; the church itself was badly damaged, but has since been repaired. It is not an ancient structure, like many of Piper’s architectural subjects, but was founded through the patronage of a wealthy local, Robert Hesketh of Gwyrch Castle, Abergele, and consecrated in 1873. More significantly, from the artist’s viewpoint, the architect was George Edmund Street RA (1824–81), a leading figure in the Gothic Revival. He would have known that Street was, like him, the son of a London ...


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