MacConnal Mason

Ivon Hitchens, CBE (1893-1979)

Canoe Waiting

Signed; also signed, inscribed and dated 1970 on a label attached to the stretcher
Oil on Canvas
16 x 36 inches – 40.8 x 91.5 cms

Ivon Hitchens often used oblong canvases that encouraged the viewer to run their eye freely over the painting, in the same way that one’s eye will ordinarily analyze the actual landscape. In Canoe Waiting areas of the canvas have been left bare, a method which he later explained, ‘The intention is that the spectator’s eye can travel along these areas, from floe to floe, over the picture surface instead of being engulfed or drowned in a morass of paint representing or aping realism’. One can also see horizontal brushwork throughout the painting, creating depth whilst indicating a horizon beyond. In the foreground, a canoe sits in waiting, just left of centre.

By the 1930’s Hitchens had already spoken of his interest in the ‘musical appearance of things’ as opposed to a representation of natural reality. In Canoe Waiting he has separated the canvas into sections which can be interpreted as musical rhythms or variations. In his later works such as this the use of strong colours can be compared with musical abstraction.
Provenance: Waddington Galleries, London;
Private Collection, Ireland by 1979
Artist Biography: Ivon Hitchens was born in London, the son of Alfred Hitchens (b.1861) a portrait, figurative and landscape painter, and a regular exhibitor at the Royal Academy. Ivon Hitchens was educated at the progressive school Bedales and in 1910 studied at the St. John’s Wood School of Art followed by the Royal Academy Schools. A figurative, still life and landscape painter, Hitchens was influenced by Matisse and Cezanne; he explored abstraction, and the use of form and colour in landscape.

Hitchens was close friends with Ben (1894-1982) and Winifred Nicholson (1893-1981), visiting them and exhibiting with the Nicholsons, Christopher Wood and other young artists, as the Seven and Five Society, founded in 1922, Hitchens exhibiting each year until its demise in 1935. In 1925 Hitchens had his first show at the Mayor Gallery and in 1931 was elected a member of the London Group where he exhibited with his friend John Tunnard (1900-1971). In 1940 following the bombing of London, Hitchens moved to Greenleaves near Petworth in West Sussex, initially to a caravan and six acres of land where he built a studio and subsequently a house. The surrounding wooded landscape provided a rich source of subject matter.

He was to spend the rest of his life portraying these immediate surroundings at all the seasons of the year. Be it a dank November woodland scene pervaded with dark hued browns and mauves or a summer scene with vivid colours inspired by brightly coloured flowers, fruit and foliage invested with a rare clarity of light. Hitchens response to the landscape was very much that of a pragmatic English landscape painter, albeit one inspired by Henri Matisse (1869-1954) and Paul Cézanne (1839-1906), as distinct from certain of his contemporaries who invested the English landscape with an ethereal spiritual quality.

A hugely significant painter in twentieth century British art, Hitchens was represented in the International Exhibition of Modern Art organised by UNESCO in Paris in 1946 and in the Exhibition of British Paintings from the Tate, also held in 1946, at the Jeu de Paume in Paris.

Hitchens was elected C.B.E. in 1958 and in 1965 his ‘Coronation 1937’ exhibited at the Royal Academy was purchased by the Chantrey Bequest.

His works can be found in museums in: Aberdeen; Bath; Belfast; Birmingham; Cambridge, Fitzwilliam Museum; Cardiff, National Museum; Edinburgh, National Galleries of Scotland; Leeds; Liverpool, Walker Art Gallery; London, Courtauld Institute of Art, Tate Gallery and Victoria and Albert Museum; Newcastle; Oxford, Ashmolean Museum; Sheffield; Southampton; Gothenburg; Oslo; Montreal; Ottawa; Toronto; Vancouver; Adelaide; Melbourne; Perth; Sydney and Wellington.

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