oil & charcoal on canvas
25 by 35 cm
framed: 43.5 x 53.5 cm
signed & inscribed on the reverse
Peter Adam, Paris and by descent
Galerie Charles Lienhard, Zurich 1961, no. 24
Alan Bowness, 'Roger Hilton', exh. cat., Galerie Charles Lienhard, Zurich 1961
£58,000 + ARR
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This small scale but compositionally succinct work was painted in 1960 - a year after Waddington Galleries took on Hilton. It was first exhibited a year later at his 1961 exhibition organised by Alan Bowness at Galerie Charles Lienhard in Zurich. Recent cleaning - the canvas having been somewhat neglected in a Parisian private collection - has revealed the fresh spontaneous charcoal markings and vibrant red oil paint the artist used. Hilton titled many of his paintings simply by the date of their completion so as to emphasise his desire that the work be seen for itself, and not in any representational way. However, by the 1960s he had developed a new kind of figurative language and for the next couple of years was really at the height of his powers.
Works of this period are less densely painted and more atmospheric than earlier works - that could well be the result of his growing sensitivity to his light-filled, airy surroundings. In his compositions of these years abstract shapes and looping lines often suggest the presence of a figure or landscape, or both. These bold forms are obsessional, recurring constantly in his paintings.
Hilton’s work oscillated between complete non-representation and degrees of figuration. In the end he came to believe that was ‘only a step towards a new sort of figuration, that is, one which is more true’. Often apparently abstract shapes suggest parts of the body – usually female. But, as well as his forms, Hilton used the material of the work of art itself to evoke ideas of the body and its functions. He reversed the conventions of picture making by drawing into and over paint while the paint itself looks as if it has been smeared or laid on in blocks.
Roger Hilton went on to win the John Moore's prize in 1963 and exhibited in the British Pavillion at the Venice Biennale in 1964 winning the UNESCO Prize. It was his method of blending apparent control with uninhibited spontaneity that launched Hilton onto the international stage, his radical individualism giving him a justified reputation as one of the most thrilling and trailblazing artists in Post-War British art.
The work comes from the collection of the filmmaker Peter Adam who was great friends with Prunella Clough and Keith Vaughan but also wrote books on both Eileen Gray and David Hockney.
1952 Gimpel Fils, London
1958 Institute of Contemporary Arts, London
1960 Waddington Galleries, London
1961 Galerie Charles Lienhard, Zurich
1962 Waddington Galleries, London
1963 John Moores Exhibition, Liverpool (1st Prize)
1964 XXXII Venice Biennale (UNESCO Prize)
1974 Serpentine Gallery, London (retrospective)
1977 Waddington Galleries, London
!993 Haywood Gallery, London (retrospective)
2006 Tate Gallery, St. Ives
2008 Kettles Yard, Cambridge
Roger Hilton photographed c.1965 by Lord Snowdon for the book 'Private View: The Lively World of British Art'
Arts Council Collection, London
British Council Collection
British Museum, London
Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation, Lisbon
Fogg Art Museum, Harvard
Government Art Collection
National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa
National Portrait Gallery, London
Queensland Art Gallery, Brisbane
Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam
Tate Gallery, London
Victoria & Albert Museum
Yale Centre for British Art, New Haven