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A beautiful book, but . . .
on 3 June 2010
Probably the best produced book I've had in my hands for a long time - absolutely beautiful. Not one for reading in bed - it weighs a ton and hurts when you fall asleep and drop it on your face - but a solid, well researched account of the Pipers and their varying circle. The writing is clear and precise, although the tendency to deal with parts of the story just out of the normal chronological order, especially in the 1935 - 1945 period, can be slightly confusing. Don't let this put you off, though: Ms Spalding will hold your interest.
But by the end you may have formed the same opinion as I did - the Pipers in later life, especially John, wouldn't have been much fun to be around. This seems odd because the testimony of their friends would suggest the opposite. But there's a puritanical earnestness about the lives and the work which I started to find wearying. They became members of "the great and the good" very readily, and seemed to relish it. By the end you wanted a bit of Van Gogh instability, or Dali-esque humour - anything to chip away at the po-faced quality of Piper's reverence for his own Art. This is probably grossly unfair, but I was left with confused feelings about the Pipers and their place in the story of English Art. There was a lot of other great stuff going on in the Art World while John Piper was painting his churches and stately homes, but it didn't seem to impinge much on him. I was left with the impression that I had been meandering down an interesting byway while the main traffic was thundering past just over the horizon.