Ivon Hitchens 1893-1979

 
 
Ivon Hitchens's abstraction was rooted in the English landscape. He experimented with perceptual abstraction and his mature style was heavily influenced by Braque.

After his house was bombed in 1940 he moved to a patch of woodland near Petworth, West Sussex. He worked there for the next forty years, distanced from the predominantly literary currents of British modern art.

In his commitment to colour and open brushwork he was closer to the modern French masters, especially Bonnard. However he painted mostly outdoors and his technique developed from a tonal treatment that recalled the informality of Constable's sketches.

He valued the disciplines of Cézanne too highly to allow structure to be controlled by subjective response alone. The paintings of his last years were characterised by both a glorious freshness of colour and grey tonalities.


1893
Sydney Ivon Hitchens was born on 3 March at 35 Kensington Square, London, the only son of Alfred Hitchens, painter, and Ethel Margaret, nee Seth-Smith.

1895
The family moved to Homewood, Englefield Green, Surrey.

c. 1899
Hitchens paints his earliest surviving picture, 'Margate Pier with Paddle-Steamer'.

1900
Attended Conamur School, Sandgate, Kent.

1903-9
Attended Bedales School, Steep, near Petersfield, Hampshire.

1909
To recuperate from severe appendicitis, traveled to New Zealand via Ceylon, where he stayed with relatives.

1910
Returned to England, where he attended St John's Wood Art School.

1911-12
Attended the Royal Academy schools where, in addition to regular training, he was briefly
taught by visiting academicians, including Orpen, Sargent, Clausen and Shannon.

1913
Family holiday in Brittany and the Pyrenees.

1914-16
Attended the Royal Academy schools.

1917
Worked in hospital supplies at Woolwich.

1918-19
Returned for a fourth and final year at RA schools.

1919
Acquired a studio in Hampstead, London.

1919-20
Painted mural 'Forest Scene with Animals' for St Luke's Church, Maidstone, Kent (unveiled late June 1920).

1920-1
Painted replica of 'Forest Scene with Animals' for All Souls' Free Church, Hoop Lane, Golders London (installed October 1925).

1920
Elected member of the newly formed Seven and Five Society, taking part in its first exhibition (April) and all subsequent exhibitions until 1935.

1921-2
Paints reredos and war memorial panels at St Paul's Church, Dorking, Surrey (unveiled in January 1922).

1922
Painted at Heyshott, near Midhurst, West Sussex, and made pencil and water-colour studies influenced by Cezanne and the theories of Dow and Fry.

1923
Visited Seth-Smith relations at Chateau d'Oex, Vaud, Switzerland.

1924
Stayed with Claude Flight, Percy Jowett and Harold William in a cave above the river Seine in Eure from August to September.

Met Ben and Winifred Nicholson.

1925
Spent summer with the Nicholsons at Banks Head, near Brampton, Cumberland.

First one-man exhibition, at the Mayor Gallery in December.

1927
Holidayed with thirty other young people at Chalet du Planais, Bramans, Savoy.

1928
Stayed with Constance Sitwell at Barmoor Castle, Northumberland; painted in Shropshire, and made short painting-trips to Selborne in Hampshire, to Sussex, Essex and Suffolk.

1929
First visit to Moatlands, East Grinstead near Ashdown Forest, East Sussex. Stayed with the Murray family in Cambridge during the summer.

In September, went to the Norfolk Broads with Jack Murray.

Elected member of the London Artists' Association.

1930
Painted at Selborne, Hampshire in October.

1931
Elected member of the London Group.

Went on holiday with Henry Moore, Ben Nicholson and others at Happisburgh on the Norfolk coast in September.

Painted at Hampton Lode on the river Severn, near Bridgnorth, Shropshire, feeling an affinity, at this time, for the landscapes of Andre Dunoyer de Segonzac.

1932-4
Absorbed the influence of Georges Braque in still-life painting.

1933 and 1934
Painted at Sizewell on the Suffolk coast in the summers.

1934
Took part in the March-April: 'Objective Abstractions' exhibition at the Zwemmer Gallery together with Geoffrey Tibble, Rodrigo Moynihan, Graham Bell, Victor Pasmore, Ceri Richards and Thomas Carr.

Painted at Higham in the Stour valley, Suffolk while staying with Ida and Blair Hughes-Stanton.

1935
Married Mary Cranford Coates, and honeymooned at Sizewell. October marked the last exhibition of the 7 & 5 Society.

1936
Painted at Sizewell, in West Sussex (staying at New Woods Cottage, Burton) and at Moatlands, near Ashdown Forest where he painted the first landscape in double-square horizontal format which was later to become a hallmark.

1937
Elected member of the Society of Mural Painters. Turned from the experiments in 'reductive' abstraction, made in the previous four years and culminating in 'Coronation', to develop a personal style of abstract figuration, marking the beginning of his maturity as a painter.

1937 and 1938
Spent both Septembers painting at Holbrook on the Shotley peninsula, near Ipswich, Suffolk.

1939
Acquired a gipsy caravan and six acres of woodland at Lavington Common, near Petworth, W. Sussex.

1940
First of ten one-man exhibitions at the Leicester Galleries in February (the last one in May 1959).

His son John Patrick Coates Hitchens was born.

The Hampstead studio was damaged by a bomb in August. The Hitchens moved permanently to Lavington Common.

1944
Met Howard Bliss who became his most important patron.

1944-5
Painted a series of twenty paintings based on Terwick mill and pool on the river Rother, near Midhurst, West Sussex.

1945
First retrospective exhibition at Temple Newsam House, Leeds (together with Henry Moore).

1946-7
'Tangled Pool' series (ten).

1948
'Winter Walk' series (four).

Major exhibition at the Graves Art Gallery, Sheffield.

1950
Exhibition of twenty-seven figure studies at the Leicester Galleries.

1951
Awarded a purchase prize at the Arts Council's Festival of Britain exhibition '60 Paintings for '51', for 'Aquarian Nativity - Child of This Age'.

1950-4
Painted mural, based on folk dances, for Cecil Sharp House, Regent's Park Road, London, headquarters of the English Folk Dance and Song Society. At the time its unveiling, in July 1954, it was the largest mural in the country, measuring sixteen by sixty-nine feet (with a central section twenty feet high).

1954
'Arched Trees' series (seventeen).

1956
Backdrop, based on a painting by Hitchens, for Ashton's ballet 'La Peri' (first performance at Covent Garden 15 February 1956).

Represented Britain at the XXVIII Venice Biennale, with subsequent showings of his work in Vienna, Munich, Paris and Amsterdam.

1957
Visited Paris in February to see the exhibition of his own work at the Musee d'Art Moderne.

1957-8
'Firwood Ride' series (sixteen). The final variation, 'Gentle Spring' is in the private collection of HM the Queen.

1958
Created CBE.

1958-9
Painted large-scale work 'Late Summer Parkland with a Lake' for Nuffield College, Oxford (unveiled June 1959).

1959
Special mention at XI Premio Lissone, Italy.

1959-60
'Warnford Water' series (eight).

1960
First one-man exhibition at the Waddington Galleries in June (the ninth and last in 1976).

Hitchens painted mural 'Day's Work, Day's Rest' installed at the University of Sussex, Falmer, near Brighton in October 1962.
1962
'Foliage by Water' series (twelve).

1963
Holidayed in Ireland in June and July.

Second retrospective exhibition, organized by the Arts Council at the Tate Gallery.

Bought beachside cottage at Selsey Bill, Sussex.

1964 Paints Fountain of Adis, one of the largest paintings Hicthens would ever paint, aside from his murals.

1971
Visited central Wales in July.

1973
'Wintermane' tapestry, based on a painting by Hitchens, woven by the Edinburgh Tapestry Company for the Chase Manhattan Bank, Mount Street, London.

Became severely ill in summer.

1978
Select retrospective exhibition at Eastbourne.

1979
Third major retrospective exhibition at the Royal Academy Diploma Galleries.

Painted his last picture on 17 July.

Died at home on 29 August.

one man exhibitions
1925
Mayor Gallery, London

1933
Alex Reid & Lefevre, London (also 1935 and 1937)

1940
Leicester Galleries, London (also 1942, 1944, 1947, 1949, 1950, 1952, 1954, 1957 and 1959)

1945
Temple Newsam House, Leeds (retrospective exhibition, with Henry Moore)

1948
Graves Art Gallery, Sheffield (retrospective) 1953 Second International Art Exhibition, Metropolitan Art Gallery, Tokyo (with Ben Nicholson): subsequently at Osaka, Ube, Fukuoka, Sarebo, Nagoya, Takamatsu et al.

1956
Gimpel Fils, London

1957
Laing Galleries, Toronto (with John Piper)

1960
Waddington Galleries, London (also 1962, 1964, 1966, 1968, 1969, 1971, 1973, 1976, 1982, 1985, 1990 and 1993)

1963
Tate Gallery, London (retrospective); subsequently at Bradford City Art Gallery and Birmingham City Museum and Art Gallery

1978
Towner Art Gallery, Eastbourne (retrospective); subsequently at Mappin Art Gallery, Sheffield; Reading Museum and Art Gallery; Portsmouth

1979
Royal Academy of Arts, London (retrospective); subsequently at Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge; Newlyn Art Gallery, Penzance, Ferens Art Gallery, Kingston-upon-Hull; Castle Museum, Nottingham

1989
Serpentine Gallery, London (retrospective; subsequently at City Art Center, Edinburgh; Harris Museum and Art Gallery, Preston.



Selected museums and public collections

Australia Art Gallery of South Australia, Adelaide
Art Gallery of Western Australia, Perth
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney
Canada Museum of Fine Arts, Montreal
National Gallery of Ottawa
Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto
Art Gallery of Vancouver France Musée National d'Art Moderne, Paris
New Zealand Bishop Suter Art Gallery, Nelson
National Gallery of New Zealand, Wellington
Norway National Gallery, Oslo
South African Art Gallery, Natal
Sweden Gothenburg Art Museum
United States Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo
Smith Art Museum, Northampton, Massachusetts
Seattle Art Gallery
Centre for British Art, Yale, New Haven, Conn.
Aberdeen Gallery
Barnsley: Canon Hall Museum and Art Gallery
Bath Art Gallery
Bedford: Cecil Higgins Museum and Art Gallery
Belfast: Ulster Museum
Birmingham: City Museum and Art Gallery
Bradford City Art Gallery
Brighton Art Gallery
Bristol Art Gallery
Cambridge: Fitzwilliam Museum
Cardiff: National Museum of Wales
Chichester: Pallent House Gallery
Eastbourne: Towner Art Gallery
Edinburgh: Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art
Glasgow School of Art
Harrogate Art Gallery
Huddersfield Art Gallery
Kettering Art Gallery
Kingston-upon-Hull: Ferens Art Gallery
Leamington Spa: Warwick District Council Art Gallery
Leeds: City Art Galleries
Leicester: City Museum and Art Gallery
Liverpool: Walker Art Gallery
London: Courtauld Institute Galleries
Royal Academy of Arts
Tate Gallery
Victoria and Albert Museum
Manchester: City Art Galleries
Whitworth Art Gallery
Middlesborough Art Gallery
Newcastle-upon-Tyne: Laing Art Gallery
Norwich: Castle Museum
Nottingham: Castle Museum and Art Gallery
Oxford: Ashmolean Museum
Rochdale Art Gallery
Rugby Art Gallery
Salford Art Gallery
Sheffield Art Gallery
Shrewsbury Art Galleries
Southampton Art Galleries
Swansea: Glynn Vivian Art Gallery
Swindon Museum and Art Gallery
Wakefield: City Museum and Art Gallery





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