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Sussex River near Midhurst, Ivon Hitchens

A painting by Ivon Hitchens showing abstract shapes of various colours, mostly blue tones around the edges, with yellows reds and browns towards the centre

At a glance

Artist: Ivon Hitchens

Date: 1965

Materials: Oil on canvas

Acquisition: Hussey Bequest, Chichester District Council (1985)

Taking inspiration from avant-garde French artists such as Henri Matisse, Pierre Bonnard and George Braque, Hitchens had already began experimenting with painting landscape in the 1920s and 1930s. When London became a dangerous place to live during the Blitz, Hitchens moved his family to the Sussex countryside. They bought six acres of woodland in the area around Petworth, and at first lived in a bright green and scarlet caravan. Over subsequent years, a house, Greenleaves, and studio was built, and it would be in this tranquil setting that Hitchens would develop his own distinctive abstract language.

Sussex River, near Midhurst, is a panoramic horizontal composition, with bold strokes of flat colour. In his works, Hitchens engaged as much with shape, space, and depth within painting as with the specific environment of West Sussex. He would use bare areas of white canvas to isolate different patches of colour, in order to create different optical effects in the viewer’s eye.

Hitchens believed that the shapes and colours in a painting – much like musical compositions – should evoke memories and experiences, for example of walking through the countryside or looking at plants. He would usually work outdoors, fully immersed in nature, only returning to the studio in December, to shelter from the cold weather and finish his paintings.