Previously Unseen Collection of John Piper Paintings Unveiled for The First Time – Exhibition Opens 3 March


A major collection of work by John Piper, arguably one of Britain’s most influential modernist artists, will be unveiled at the River & Rowing Museum, Henley on Thames, for the first time in a new exhibition John Piper - The Gyselynck Collection. The exhibition runs from 3 March – 8 October 2012. IMAGES:

Press Preview: Thursday 1 March from 12:00hrs – 1500hrs, includes complementary lunch at the River & Rowing Museum’s award winning café.

The exhibition comprises the collection of over 30 John Piper works acquired by collector the late Michael Gyselynk, who lived in Lower Shiplake near Henley on Thames.  This exhibition will be the first time the collection has been displayed together – and the first time many of the works have been displayed in public before.

The exhibition will be opened by Lord Camoys, President of the River & Rowing Museum and close friend of Michael Gyselynk.

The collection comprises works across a wide variety of mediums.  Works of note:  

  • Composition’, 1936, oil on canvas, one of a few pure abstracts by Piper painted during a period when he was experimenting with abstraction, influenced by the likes of Braque and Picasso and reflecting the trend of European Modernism at the time.  The painting, on loan from the Ashmolean is brought back to the Collection for the first time.
  •  ‘Reclining nude’, 1982, painted ceramic dish produced by Fulham Pottery, one of eight beach girl designs where the figure has been formed using the minimum of line made from a piece of finely rolled clay laid on a roughly shaped platter.  Piper did not like the shape of the pots to be too perfect and enjoyed using bright glazes to achieve painterly effects.
  •  ‘Autumn Flowers’, 1987, oil on canvas, a large and vibrant example of Piper’s expressive work from towards the end of his life when he could no longer travel far and often painted the flowers from his garden at Fawley bottom, near Henley on Thames. It was one of Michael Gyselynck’s favourite pieces in which he saw the flowers exploding from the canvas like fireworks

The exhibition marks the twentieth anniversary of Piper’s death and the tenth anniversary Gyselynk’s death.

John Piper (13 December 1903 – 28 June 1992) lived near Henley on Thames for most of his working life. John Piper was a widely accomplished artist mastering many different media.  He is perhaps best known for his stained glass designs most notably Coventry Cathedral, his architectural depictions of Britain’s built heritage through his commissions as an official war artist, for Kenneth Clarks’‘Recording Britain’ project and his work with John Betjeman for the Shell County Guides. He was passionate about exploring different methods, seeking to work alongside skilled craftsmen and producing over his long career paintings, prints, ceramics, collage works, designs for textiles, stained glass theatre sets and murals.

The Gyselynck Collection exhibition provides a unique opportunity to view work spanning the artist’s entire career across his different mediums and represents many aspects of Piper’s artistic output including abstract landscape compositions, topographical and figurative paintings, collage and ceramics.  Piper was influenced in his early career by Braque, Picasso and modern French artists.  He was friends with other pioneers of modern British art such as Alexander Calder, Ben Nicholson, Henry Moore and Barbara Hepworth, and during the 1930s experimented with pure abstraction.  Moving away from this beginning Piper went on to develop his own unique style, fusing fluidity of line with elemental forms and perfectly balanced use of colour to communicate the spirit of a place, the feel of a body or the pure essence of a landscape.

At the heart of the River & Rowing Museum exhibition lies one man’s pursuit for works by an artist he became passionate about.  Michael Gyselynk began his enthusiasm for John Piper’s work with the purchase of one print.  Over the years it became almost an obsession to search out works available for sale and then hang them in his home.  When his house was full of Piper’s works he built another one so he could show his collection off to the full.  He took immense pleasure from the paintings, sharing his passion with visitors; a favourite past time with guests was quizzing them about which Piper work appealed to them the most, the least and why..

This exhibition will continue the River & Rowing Museum’s special relationship with John Piper, building on two previous major Piper shows; ‘Master of Diversity’ (2000) and ‘Crossing Boundaries’ (2003/4) and complementing the Museum’s extensive reference collection about the artist and his work.  The Museum also currently houses Landscape of the Two Seasons (1960) by Piper, on long-term loan from the P&O Art Collection.

Paul Mainds, Trustee and Chief Executive of The River & Rowing Museum said:  “It has been an enormous pleasure to work with Gyselynk family for this exhibition and we are indebted to them for allowing us to display Michael Gyselynck’s remarkable collection for the first time.  This exhibition also enables us to continue our reputation for excellent Piper exhibitions, showcasing the work of this internationally significant artist.” 

Plan your Piper Journey

The River & Rowing Museum’s John Piper - The Gyselynck Collection exhibition is linked to another Piper exhibition taking place at Dorchester Abbey from 21 April – 21 June 2012.  The exhibition, called John Piper and the Church, in Dorchester Abbey – about 30mins drive from the Museum – demonstrates Piper’s vision to bring colour, energy and modernity into the heart of the church buildings and showcases the artist’s work across stained glass, tapestries, ecclesiastical vestments, paintings and drawings.   Together both exhibitions provide a unique opportunity to experience the widest possible range of John Piper’s work.

- ENDS -

Press Contacts

Maxim Bendall Kallaway: 0207 221 7883

Catherine Yoxall, The River & Rowing Museum: 01491 415642

Follow River & Rowing Museum on Twitter: @OnTheRiverbank

Images: View example images here:

Please request high-res images from:

70 word listing:

A major collection of work by John Piper, arguably one of Britain’s most influential modernist artists, will be unveiled at the River & Rowing Museum, Henley on Thames, in a new exhibition: John Piper - The Gyselynck Collection.

Comprising over 30 John Piper works acquired by collector the late Michael Gyselynk, this highly significant exhibition will be the first time many of the works have been displayed in public.

55 word listing:

The late Michael Gyselynk’s private collection of works by one of Britain’s most influential modernist artists, John Piper, will be unveiled at the River & Rowing Museum, Henley on Thames, in a new exhibition: John Piper - The Gyselynck Collection. It will be the first time many of the works have been displayed in public.

25 word listing:

A never before seen exhibition of works by seminal British modernist John Piper at the River & Rowing Museum: John Piper - The Gyselynck Collection.

Notes to Editors

The show will run from 3 March – 8 October 2012 in the Treasures Gallery at the River and Rowing museum, Mill Meadows, Henley-on-Thames, RG9 1BF

The River & Rowing Museum

The River & Rowing Museum is one of the UK's leading regional and sporting museums, attracting over 114,000 visitors a year. The Museum, an independent charity, also has a purpose built education centre visited by over 20,000 children and adults a year. The Museum provides superb value for money. Tickets are £8 for adults and £6 for children and provide free access for a year.

Designed by David Chipperfield and located on the banks of the River Thames in Henley on Thames, the Museum celebrates and explores four core themes through a wide variety of exhibitions and events across four galleries and special exhibitions:

  1. Rivers: Using the Thames as a starting point, the Museum explores the environmental, ecological and social impacts of water and rivers across the world.
  2. The historic riverside community of Henley on Thames: This historic town home to the Henley Royal Regatta and host to the Rowing competition in the 1908 and 1948 Olympic Games has colourful history dating back to the stone age all captured in a dedicated gallery explored through hugely popular temporary exhibitions.
  3. The international sport of rowing: One of the world’s most significant collections of rowing memorabilia, charting the sport from ancient beginnings to present day is held at the Museum. The sport is also celebrated through temporary exhibitions throughout the year.
  4. The Wind in the Willows – hugely popular with children and families, this exhibition recreates the timeless E H Shepard illustrations from Kenneth Grahame's famous novel, taking visitors on a journey through the world famous riverside tale of Mr Toad and his friends.

Since opening in August 1998 the Museum has received numerous awards including the National Heritage/NPI Museum of the Year award and the Sandford Award For Heritage Education.

Location, opening and ticket information

  • The River & Rowing Museum, Mill Meadows, Henley on Thames, Oxfordshire, RG9 1BF. Tel. 01491 415600.
  • The Museum, terrace café and shop are open every day from 10am - 5.30pm in summer and 10am - 5pm in the winter
  • Tickets give FREE admission for a whole year!
  • Admission is just £8 for adults, £6 for children aged four and over, FREE for children aged three and under and £6 for senior citizens and concessions
  • Free parking for visitors
  • Members of the British Armed Forces and their families receive discounted tickets.
  • The River & Rowing Museum is part of the Thames Valley Museums Group (TVMG) Family Friendly initiative - a scheme that brings together 29 Museums across Berkshire, Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire, to promote their popular appeal to the whole family
  • Art Fund members are entitled to free admission

Further information about Michael Gyselynck

This collection of over 30 works by John Piper was brought together over a period of about 12 years of animated collecting by Michael Gyselynck (1941-2002).  A successful business man, Gyselynck lived in Lower Shiplake near Henley on Thames for most of his life and was described by his wife as a born collector who sought out the rare and beautiful and who made himself an expert on anything he collected.  He had an eye for detail and particularly appreciated a maker’s skill and mastery in producing a work. It was within his inherent nature to collect, and he enjoyed the thrill and business of collecting as much as the pieces he acquired. 

At various times he collected edged weapons and antiques, but during the 1990s his attention especially turned to the works of the celebrated British artist John Piper.  Gyselynck’s interest evolved into a passion.  It had begun in 1986 with the purchase of a Piper print of the church at Ruishton bought as a gift for his wife and chosen by her.  The modern treatment of a traditional theme and enlightening use of colour had appealed to her.  Thereafter, Michael characteristically sought to find out more about the artist John Piper who had coincidentally also lived near Henley for much of his life. He particularly admired Piper’s diversity in both subject matter and medium.  Within a few years his desire to collect examples from as many of Piper’s phases of work as possible had become something of an obsession.  It led to him building a new home, which could accommodate and showcase the growing collection to its best potential, and he took much delight in planning the hanging of the pictures. 

Gyselynck enjoyed the hunt and sense of winning, using his shrewd business acumen when acquiring works, especially at auction.  The thrill of the chase may have spurred him on initially, but after some years he specifically strove to strengthen and improve his Piper collection for its instrinsic artistic value, selling some works to fund others.  His most significant purchase was ‘Composition’, 1936, one of a few pure abstracts by Piper painted during a period when he was experimenting with abstraction, influenced by the likes of Braque and Picasso and reflecting the trend of European Modernism at the time.  On loan to this exhibition from the Ashmolean Museum, (who was allocated the painting through the Government’s In lieu of inheritance tax scheme), this painting will hang once again with the core of Gyselynck’s collection, not seen together in public before.  Other works on show include paintings on canvas and paper, collage, drawings and ceramics covering abstract compositions, topographical views (Bath, Rome), landscapes (Wales, Dorset, France), figurative works and designs for fibreglass murals and book illustrations (India Love Poems translated by Tambinuttu, publ. 1977 and The Wisdom of the West by Bertrand Russell publ. 1959).