architecture, Buckinghamshire, Column, Folly, garden, landscape

John Piper and Stowe, Buckinghamshire.

A brief post this week as The Folly Flâneuse has been racing around at a somewhat faster pace than her usual omnipercipient strolling. However, the lovely images by John Piper will make up for the paucity of words.

After the Easter heatwave the weather broke just as The Folly Flâneuse arrived at Stowe – the photo above shows the view from the grotto, which gave some much needed protection from one of the heaviest of the showers. On the plus side, no-one else was about, and The Folly Flâneuse had Stowe all to herself.

The (re)visit was inspired by the image below, which featured in a recent exhibition put together by Neil Jennings Fine Art.

Queen Caroline’s Monument, Stowe. Lithograph by John Piper, c.1975. Private collection. Image courtesy of Neil Jennings Fine Art.

John Piper (1903-1992) first visited Stowe in the 1930s when he summed up the faded glory of the gardens with the evocative phrase ‘pleasing decay’. In that decade it was suggested that a book of views of Stowe would be well-received, but although Piper remained a regular visitor to the park, and produced many views in a range of media, the project stalled for decades.

John Piper, Congreve Monument and Shell Grotto, Stowe (Watercolour) 1940 © Victoria and Albert Museum.

Eventually, in 1983,  John Piper’s Stowe was published as a limited edition by the Hurtwood Press, in association with the Tate Gallery. The foreword was written by Piper himself and the images were accompanied by a commentary by Mark Girouard, who described the park as ‘a diamond which flashes in a different way, depending on the angle one looks at it.’

John Piper, The Oxford Bridge and Boycott Pavilion, Stowe, lithograph in colours, edition of 50 produced to accompany the publication of John Piper’s Stowe in 1983. Private collection.

To give Piper the final word on Stowe: ‘There is no end to the things one can paint there, and dream about.’

John Piper’s works can be seen in collections across the country and further afield. His love for follies was not restricted to Stowe and he painted Clytha Castle in Wales, Dinton Folly in Buckinghamshire and the buildings at Renishaw Hall in Derbyshire, amongst many others. There’s a gallery dedicated to his life and work in the lovely River and Rowing Museum in Henley on Thames

Start saving now for a selling (and loan) exhibition at London’s Portland Gallery in September

More on Stowe here


The Needle’s Eye, Wentworth Woodhouse. Subscribe and discover many other fascinating follies.


Subscribing to The Folly Flaneuse ensures you will never miss a post. All you need to do is provide me with your contact information and you will automatically receive an email each Saturday when I post new content on Your email address will never be sold or shared

 You can remove yourself anytime by contacting me.

* indicates required

4 thoughts on “John Piper and Stowe, Buckinghamshire.”

  1. Garance says:

    Lovely images, yours and Piper’s – Thank you for braving the weather. I love the idea of omnipercipient strolling, perhaps you can teach me how sometime. G.

    1. Editor says:

      I’m thinking this might be the next craze. More over Mindfulness; come and meet in a folly and learn the art of omnipercipient strolling. This could be my big break!

  2. Rosemary Hill says:

    Your photograph looks like a Ravilious -I really thought it was a watercolour. Also Mark G’s image of Stowe as a diamond flashing in different directions is unforgettable.

    1. Editor says:

      Thanks Rosemary. Sadly it was the only useable photo of Stowe. It really was an awful day and I spent the day in a pvc poncho from the NT shop after a minor packing mishap!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.