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Perspectives

Your place to explore new perspectives on British art from 1900 to now. Through interviews, films, image galleries and essays, we uncover the creative lives of the people behind the art on our walls.

Painting by Ivon Hitchens in pale tones showing a view from a window of a blue skywith white fluffy clouds over rooftops and distant countryside

Ivon Hitchens: Artistic Influences

[ Essay )

Hitchens, in his singular and unique approach to place, inspired both his contemporaries and subsequent generations of artists, but who were his artistic influences?

Focusing on three key works from the exhibition, let’s talk about the artists who influenced Hitchens, both at home and on the continent.

Cubism and Cézanne

His spatial grammar – the fact that he conceives of forms in space in terms of a system of flat screens of colour lying one behind another – this is purely Cubist in origin.

Patrick Heron (1920 – 1999)

Painting by Ivon Hitchens depictinmg a barn in the middle of the woods with a curved roof

Ivon Hitchens, Curved Barn, 1922, oil on canvas, Pallant House Gallery (presented by the artist, 1979) © The Estate of Ivon Hitchens

Arguably, Cubism was one the most influential styles of the 20th century – an artistic revolution started by artists such as Cézanne (1839 – 1906) who wanted to break free of the European conventions of pictorial reality and perspective. One of Hitchens’ rare trips abroad was to connect directly with the terrain of Cézanne and his contemporaries in the South of France. Let’s take a look at Curved Barn (1922) – can you see the emphasis on two-dimensional flatness? The reduction of the scene to geometric outlines and forms?  Hitchens used these cubist mannerisms to great effect, breaking down the landscape into something much less realist, and much more abstract. Yet the influence of Cubism was not limited to just his landscape paintings…..

Georges Braque

Hitchens, in turn produced highly resolved works such as Spring Mood, creating harmonious, flowing compositions formed by establishing a sense of a single rhythmic scheme across the shallow picture plane effortlessly incorporating any spatial distortion.

Anne Goodchild, Ivon Hitchens: Space through Colour, 2019, Pallant House Gallery.

Painting by Ivon Hitchens of a still life arrangement of vases, flowers and plants in green tones

Ivon Hitchens, Spring Mood No.II, 1933, oil on canvas, 71 x 101cm, Jonathan Clark, © The Estate of Ivon Hitchens

Although they are not as well-known as his landscapes, Hitchens also painted a number of still lifes. In Spring Mood No. II (1933) for example, we can still see the enduring legacy of Cubism. At this time, the art of Georges Braque (1882 – 1963) was particularly influential for Hitchens and Braque’s still life compositions were deeply rooted in the cubist tradition. The deliberate lack of depth and perspective, intentional pictorial flatness and the abstract distortion of form – all key aspects of Braque’s compositions – are also keenly visible in Spring Mood No. II. But it wasn’t just artists on the continent who helped shape Hitchens art. Which artists were closer to home?

Ben and Winifred Nicholson

I do feel something vital happens in every new friendship as if more doors open on every side & new possibilities for everyone wake up.

Collector Helen Sutherland writing to Ben Nicholson.

Painting by Ivon Hitchens in pale tones showing a view from a window of a blue skywith white fluffy clouds over rooftops and distant countryside

Ivon Hitchens, A Border Day (Morning, Bankshead) 1925, oil on canvas, 56.4 x 61cm © The Estate of Ivon Hitchens / Image © Ashmolean Museum, University of Oxford

Bankshead – a simple farmhouse belonging to Ben (1894 – 1982) and Winifred Nicholson (1893 – 1981) – became a gathering place in the 1920s for many of their artist friends including Hitchens. In 1925, a summer spent at the farmhouse prompted a series of interiors paintings much apart from his usual landscape paintings. Was it the bright, airy, uncluttered rooms that inspired these interior still lifes flooded with light? Or was it the influence of Winifred Nicholson who favoured interior compositions and the practice of painting outdoors and by open windows? Certainly the open windows depicted in paintings such as Border Day (1925) owes a debt to Winifred Nicholson. Appearing in the works of all three painters at this time, the open window simultaneously served as a formal device to open-up and enlarge the space of still life and a metaphor for movement between the material and immaterial, inside and outside worlds.

Ivon Hitchens: Space through Colour closes on  Sunday 13 October 2019.