With valuations of six-figure sums each, the two murals by John Piper (1903-92) and Edward Bawden (1903-89) will go on display at Waddesdon Manor in Buckinghamshire having both been in a private collection for more than 30 years.
Piper’s The Englishman’s Home comprises 42 panels and was completed by Piper in oil paints on plywood in his garden in Oxfordshire through the winter of 1950-51 for the Festival of Britain.
It is the largest surviving mural from the festival, covering almost 16 x 52ft (5 x 16m), and had been installed on the river side of the Homes and Gardens Pavilion on London’s South Bank.
The composition is an imagined street scene and includes a highly personal and impressionistic selection of buildings (some of which are identifiable such as his mother’s house).
Following the festival Piper’s mural was given to Harlow (one of the first new towns when it was created in 1947) and in the 1960s it was installed in the Assembly Hall at Harlow Technical College, overseen by
Piper. It remained there until 1992 when Harlow sold some of its public art and has been in a private collection until it was sold through Liss Llewellyn.
As well as being part displayed at Waddesdon, it is planned to loan the work to the new The London Museum when it opens in Smithfield in 2026. The new location will mean the museum can fully display the huge artwork.
Bawden at the bar
Bawden’s The English Pub was created between 1949-51 across 11 panels.
He was commissioned in 1949 by Sir Colin Anderson, director of the Orient Line shipping company, to create artwork for the First-Class Saloon on the steamship Oronsay.
Bawden also made a companion piece – called English Garden Delights – of very similar dimensions, for the same space in Oronsay’s sister ship, the Orcades.
This screen was already at Waddesdon and belongs to a Rothschild family collection, so the acquisition unites the two.
Bawden had also designed the menu covers, ceramic tableware and curtains for the saloons on both ships which sailed between the UK and Australia until they were decommissioned and scrapped in 1975.
Bawden’s murals were removed and sold and will be displayed for the first time together at Waddesdon Manor (built by Baron Ferdinand de Rothschild between 1874-85 to display his collection and now a National Trust property).
Plans are also under way to display the two Bawden panels, with sections of the Piper mural, in a special exhibition at the manor in 2024 (before The London Museum opens).
Liss Llewellyn’s gallery manager George Richards said the private collector was very pleased with the sale as he had hoped the murals would eventually be on permanent public display.
Pippa Shirley, director of Waddesdon Manor, said: “It’s so exciting to be uniting these murals at Waddesdon, partly because of their impressive scale, but also because, although made for very different purposes, both embody an expression of Englishness which is at once nostalgic and evocative.
“It’s fascinating to compare the approaches of two such inventive and important artists.”
For more updates on Modern British art read our special report.