An important contributor to American coloristic modernism, Jane Piper created a sophisticated oeuvre defined by experimentation with color and gesture. Her role in American art was, in part, guided by her studies with Philadelphia’s premier avant-garde artists. Her first teacher of note was Grace Gemberling, a former student of influential painting teacher Arthur B. Carles. She later took classes at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts and at the Barnes Foundation, where she had access to both the history of American painting and the important developments of French Impressionism and Post-Impressionism. The work of both Cézanne and Matisse were important influences throughout her long career.
Outside these institutions, Piper studied privately with printmaker Earl Horter, who introduced her to Carles. Carles became an important mentor to Piper, both as an instructor and as a promoter of her work; he prompted dealer Robert Carlen to give her a solo show in 1943, the first year she began exhibiting. Carles also suggested that Piper study at Hans Hofmann’s school in Provincetown, Mass., which she did in 1941. Her connection to Cape Cod was a long one; in 1964, she built a second home in Wellfleet, where she spent many summers painting.
Piper enjoyed a long career marked by frequent exhibitions at institutions including the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the Allentown Art Museum, Lehigh University, Swarthmore College, and the Woodmere Art Gallery. Her work has been the subject of numerous positive reviews and essays, particularly from the 1970s on, when she exhibited more frequently.
Although closely associated with the city of Philadelphia (where she was born and raised), Piper also lived in Harlem, Cape Cod, and Spain. It is, perhaps, her Philadelphia teaching career that so closely aligned her with the city. In the mid-1950’s, Piper began teaching at institutions including the Philadelphia Museum of Art and the Philadelphia College of Art (now the University of the Arts). In this way, Piper continued the lineage of high-keyed Philadelphia abstraction that she inherited.