Art + Architecture | 1950 | Sound | B/W
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Throughout this film the viewer is shown the working life and the artistic techniques of John Piper(1903-1992). There is detailed filming of the artist preparing an etching plate and printing from it. A large selection of Piper's paintings, drawings and prints are also shown. There is also film of a stage in the Sadler's Well's Theatre, London, for which the artist made set designs. The exterior and the interiors, showing statues and memorials, of several churches are also shown.
The film begins with a shot of John Piper's studio, part of an old English farmhouse near Henley on Thames. Flint is visable in the traditionally built walls and an oil lamp hangs from the ceiling. Four paintings hang on the far wall and a cluttered table stands in the foreground. On the table are three pots full of brushes, various printing/etching inks, books and papers. Into the room, from a door in the far wall, walks the artist John Piper. He is 52 years old and has receeding blonde/white hair. He is wearing dark trousers, a thin dark, woolen jumper with a white shirt underneath. As he walks across the room two armchairs can be seen on the other side of the room. On another wall are hung nine more paintings. The camera follows Piper untill he stops at a plan-chest, his books are stacked on top. He picks up some drawings/prints and a book. He then walks across the room to his cluttered table which has a second table alongside it. He sits on a chair, puts his prints on the table and as he begins to leaf through the book he puts his glasses on. Cut to a close-up, shot over his shoulder, of Piper continuing to flick through the pages, including the index. The camera pans up to show the oil lamp, hanging from a wooden beam against the flint wall. A second panned shot follows showing three framed paintings and several sketches on the wall. Cut to a shot of Piper's prints/drawings on paper which have been spread out on the floor. A shot follows of an open book, on each page is one of Piper's prints. Cut to shots of two of Piper's prints, the first shows Windsor Castle the second Windsor Town Hall. Cut to a shot of a painting by Poussin,(Nicolas?) which shows men and women holding hands and dancing. This shot is followed by one of Piper's studies for figure and costume inspired by the painting. Cut to a still shot of a rare life study drawing/print, the woman depicted has material/cloth half covering her but with her legs and breasts exposed. Cut to a shot of a cartoon (B/W prints) showing draped/medieval standing figures, drawn for stained glass windows designed for a school chapel. Cut to a close-up of two of the faces. The camers now cuts to the actual stained glass window in progress; the same two faces. There are numerous glass bottles infront of the stained glass. The film now cuts to shots of five of Piper's designs for theatre costumes, some are prints other labeled diagrams. Cut to a full shot of a set design for Benjamin Britten's; The Turn of the Screw. Cut to a long shot of the stage in the Sadler's Well's Theatre, London. John Piper stands, with the stage director, on the stage. Several people walk around and behind them and a section of lighting is lifted by ropes from the stage floor up to the ceiling. Cut to a close-up of the two men talking. A head shot of Piper follows. Cut to several shots of stage lighting, then a long shot of the stage. Shots follow which show Piper's designs for stage/theatre productions. Return to a shot of Piper in his studio, still sitting at his table, as he takes off and folds up his glasses. He closes his book, stands up, picks up his jacket and puts it on. The film now cuts to a shot outside the house. Piper's large cottage can be seen, with a path leading towards the camera. Up the path Piper is driving an old black Mercedes. The car approaches the camera and turns onto the lane alongside and continues. The road has a stone wall running down it, trees and bushes surround it and a hill can be seen in the background.
Cut to a long shot of a country church in Yorkshire, then to a painting of it executed from the same angle. Cut to a shot of four gravestones two of which have ivy growing on them. Cut to a fifth single gravestone, this also has ivy growing on it and a small carved plaque. Cut to three shots showing stone carvings, statues and brasses from inside the church. Shots follow of seven studies Piper made from viewing objects at the church. Cut to a full shot of another church this time in Crewe, built in the 18th Century for the Earl's of Coventry. A close-up, panned shot follows, of the churches' square tower. Cut to a shot inside the church as Piper walks across; statues and memorials can be seen in the background. Cut to a closer shot of Piper as he stops next to a statue of a woman and child on a tomb lid: The 17th Century tomb of Margret Coventry. He has a large pad of paper and a pencil. Cut to a close-up shot of the faces of the mother and child. Return to a full shot as Piper begins to draw/sketch a design for an etching. A close-up shot of Piper's face pans down his arm to his hand and the pencil. The camera rests on his hand and the paper as he continues drawing. Return to close-up shots of the face of both Piper and the woman depicted in the statue. Cut to a shot of Piper's hand and drawing as he now adds ink with a pen. More close-up facial shots follow. Return to a full shot of the drawing, which is now much darker, as Piper adds white with a paintbrush. Cut to two longer shots of the artist as he continues working, then to a close-up of the finished work. The film now returns to a long shot of Piper's studio. Two gas lamps are now lit and etching materials are layed out on the table. Cut to a closer shot as Piper begins to work on an etching plate, a gas lamp sits on the table next to him, a cluttered table and shelves are in the background. Cut to a close-up of Piper's hand and the etching plate as he prepares it with etching ground. He then lights a bunch of tapers and holds then under the etching plate. Piper tips his head and looks underneath the plate as he does so. He then puts the plate down and blows out the tapers, which produce large puffs of smoke. Cut to a shot of the etching plate with a design taken from the tomb statue drawn on it. The close-up shot continues as Piper begins to go over these lines with an etching pen. Cut to a shot of a seated Piper applying stopping out varnish to the plate with a paint brush as he smokes a cigarette. Cut to a longer shot of Piper as he puts the etching plate into a small acid bath sitting on the table. Cut to a close-up of the bath as he pours acid onto the plate from a glass bottle. Cut to a long shot, from above, of Piper sitting down cleaning the plate. He now stands next to a small wooden box with a set of bellows attatched which he pumps two/three times. The etching plate is now placed inside. Cut to a shot of Piper as he heats the plate over a small circular gas stove. Cut to a close-up shot of the plate as he applies more stopping out varnish to certain areas, the plate in reflected in a mirror Piper has propped up. Cut to a shot of the original drawing, then a close-up of the plate as it is again placed in the acid bath. Cut to a long shot of Piper as he opperates a small printing press. Cut to a close-up, panned shot of the finished etched print.
The film now cuts to shots of three pictures; bombed buildings/churches during the World War Two. Cut to a full shot of a painting of a country house; Noel, in Kent. A close-up of one section of the picture follows. Cut to film of the Yorkshire countryside:Two panned shots of fields, trees and hillsides. A still shot with two large hills in the background, trees and two cows grazing in the foreground. (Malham Cove, Goredale Ska and Hardrove Fort?). Cut to ten shots, long, close-up and panned, of rocks and waterfalls, interspersed are four of Piper's paintings/prints taken from this landscape. Cut to five shots of the ruined abbey; Byland(?), in Yorkshire. There are no people present in any of this film. Cut to a full shot of Piper's painting of these ruins. Shots follow of two more similar abbey paintings. The film now cuts to fifteen panned and still shots of North Wales scenery. Included are; mountains, lakes, hillsides, low cloud/mist, cloud formation, jagged rocks and a thin winding river/stream. Eleven shots follow of Piper's paintings and drawings inspired by this Welsh countryside. A panned shot follows of water gushing between large rocks as it heads down towards the sea. Cut to a shot of the sea, rock and cliff.(The Island of Portland?). A close-up shot follows of the sea smashing into rocks, creating spray. Three shots follow which show jagged rocks as they stick out into the sea, are pounded by waves and produce banks of spray. Cut to several shots of Piper sitting, with his drawing board and paints, as he paints the rocks. Fisherman's huts can be seen behind him and his hair is being blown around by the wind. Several shots follow of rocks, lobster pots and old boats. Cut to a shot, looking up, of a new lighthouse. It is standing against the sky with blocks of rock in the foreground. Cut to three shots of a nearby village, workers cottages, stone walls and empty roads can be seen. A woman and a child, in the distance, walk on the pavement with their dog. Piper's images of these scenes are also shown, interspersed with more film of town/village landscape. There is also footage of Portland Quarry as men stand amongst huge blocks of stone, one block is lifted above them by crane. Cut to a long shot of Portland church, gravestones stand in the foreground. A close-up shot of the tower/steeple is also shown. Cut to a long shot, then close-up, of the graveyard and crumbling decorative gravestones. Cut to a second long shot of the church. Shots follow of two of Piper's sketches of these scenes. Return to a shot of Piper, still painting by the sea. Cut to a long shot of a ruined lighthouse and of his painting/sketch of it. Cut to a long shot of the new lighthouse. Return to a shot in Piper's studio, of a very cluttered table. Paintbrushes, tubes of paint and a palette are all visable. Cut to a long shot of Piper standing next to a canvas on an easel, he applies oil paint with a palette knife. Cut to a close-up of his face as he continues painting. A side shot follows as he continues to apply paint with his palette knife, he holds a paint filled palette in his other hand. As similar shots continue Piper describes, in detail, his workings. He also smoothes paint over with his thumb. Shots continue of the painting as each stage is completed.
Cut to a close-up of Piper's hand as he holds a paintbrush and mixes paint on his palette. He now applies paint with a thin brush. Three shots follow, from above, as he continues painting. Cut to another close-up shot of Piper holding his palette, this time he smoothes paint onto a piece of cloth before applying it to the canvas. Cut to a long shot of the finished painting, framed and one the wall. A panned shot follows of Piper's work, some framed and hung on the wall, others sat on the floor, stacked up against the wall. A long shot follows of Piper in his studio as he puts on his jacket and walks out of the door as he came in.
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