Waddington Galleries, London
Private collection, UK
Tate Gallery, London, Ivon Hitchens, A Retrospective Exhibition, 1963, cat no.143, touring to:
Bradford City Art Gallery
and City Museum and Art Gallery, Birmingham
Southampton Civic Art Gallery, Paintings by Ivon Hitchens, University of Southampton Arts Festival, 29th February- 22nd March1964, cat no.29
Ivon Hitchens: A retrospective exhibition, Tate Gallery, London, 1963, plate 143
Peter Khoroche, Ivon Hitchens, Andre Deutsch, London, 1990, cat no.64, plate 64
Hitchens’ paintings, so characteristic and identifiable, are, like those of his contemporary John Piper, quintessential evocations of the British rural landscape. However, whereas Piper’s work concentrates on much that is man-made and its noble, romantic decay, Hitchens’ work takes one deep into the leafy, shady, quiet corners of the countryside where man’s involvement is well in the background and seeks out the very spirit of the place. The present work, in Hitchens’ familiar long thin horizontal format, is a wonderful example of the distillation of vision that the artist had come to in his maturity.
Like Piper, Hitchens had flirted with modernism and abstraction in the mid-1930’s, but had moved back towards an art that was firmly based in the real world. This move was hastened by WWII and having been bombed out of his Swiss Cottage studio, he moved to West Sussex, where he was to remain for the rest of his life. This constant exposure to a specific landscape gave rise to several series of paintings, investigating the ever-changing nature of a landscape throughout the year and in widely varying conditions. The fine-tuning of the very particular technique that he developed in the years after WWII led, by the early 1960’s to a style which suggests so much by its quiet economy. The wide format forces the viewer to ‘read’ the surface of the painting and thus Hitchens can lead us through the lush vegetation almost as if we were there. Summer Water, Riverbend uses, like many of Hitchens’ paintings, the reflections of sky and foliage to initially confuse the viewer, but then allows him to build up the image with its wealth of views and vistas.
All the areas of the canvas should be consciously planned in movements as well as representing objects. But the visual ‘sound’ is of the first and greatest importance. Without it the picture is useless…My pictures are painted to be ‘listened’ to…
(the artist, quoted from ‘Notes on Painting’, ARK 18 (Journal of the RCA), 1956