Piper was educated at Epsom College and trained at the Richmond School of Art followed by the Royal College of Art in London. John Piper was a major contributor to the 1930’s abstract painting movement with compositions of tilting planes, arranged like flats in a stage set. In 1942 he published British Romantic Artists showing the survival of William Blake and Palmers Romanticism in a sequence of British artists including himself. Always interested in Old buildings during the Second World War he was commissioned by the government to chronicle the devastation to British cities by the German Bombing raids along with other artists such as Paul and John Nash, Henry Moore, and Graham Sutherland. His work remained Romantic in every sense, sometimes more topographical at times extravagantly theatrical. He worked in varying media for different occasions, including stained glass, stage design, tapestries and book illustrations as well as painting in oils and watercolours.
Some of Piper's most important works are in the collections of Manchester Art Gallery and the Tate. His work has been a popular addition to the GCSE and A level curriculum for art studies in England and Wales in recent years.