Coventry Cathedral, November 15th, 1940

John Piper, 13 Dec 1903 - 1992

Coventry Cathedral, November 15th, 1940

John Piper 13 Dec 1903 - 1992


View of Coventry Cathedral on fire during the World War II bombing campaign of November 15th 1940. The Cathedral's tower is to the left; the stained glass windows' outlines are silhouetted from the blazing fire inside. The paintwork consists of thickly applied, textured areas of paint, as well as featuring a distinctly bravura style of painting, where doodle lines are marked into the paintwork, reminiscent of smoke. The painting is often described as Neo-Romantic, referencing a return to eighteenth and nineteenth century Romantic subject matter such as the relationship between body and land, as expressed through the turmoil inherent in this World War II air raid scene. From April 1940, Piper worked for the War Artists' Advisory Committee as an Official War Artist, commissioned by the government to record Britain at war. In early November, he arranged with Sir Kenneth Clark, who chaired the Committee, that he should paint destroyed churches. Piper had a lifetime fascination with church buildings, producing a guidebook to the churches in his home county of Surrey as a child. Learning of the massive bombing raid on Coventry on 14 November while he happened to be nearby, Piper drove there early the following morning to record the damage. He made drawings of the destoyed cathedral church of St Michael whilst it was still on fire which he then worked up into two oil paintings - this painting and 'Interior of Coventry Cathedral' at the Herbert Art Gallery in Coventry.

Object Name

Coventry Cathedral, November 15th, 1940

Creators Name

John Piper

Date Created



unframed: 76.2cm x 63.4cm
framed: 94.8cm x 82.1cm

accession number


Place of creation





oil paint


Gift of H.M. Government War Artists' Advisory Committee.


© transferred to MCGs from the War Artists Advisory Committee, Ministry of Information (1947)

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