Roger Hilton (1911-1975)
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Roger Hilton (1911-1975)

July 1960

Details
Roger Hilton (1911-1975)
July 1960
signed and dated 'HILTON/JULY '60' (on the reverse)
oil and charcoal on canvas
30 x 36 in. (76.2 x 91.5 cm.)
Provenance
with Waddington Galleries, London.
with Maak Gallery, London.
Literature
Exhibition catalogue, Roger Hilton, London, Hayward Gallery, 1993, n.p., no. 37, illustrated.
A. Lewis, Roger Hilton, Aldershot, 2003, pp. 90-93, pl. 48.
Exhibited
London, Serpentine Gallery, Roger Hilton: Paintings and drawings 1931-1973, March 1974, no. 45, as 'July 1960 (white, blue and black)'.
London, Hayward Gallery, Roger Hilton, November 1993 - February 1994, no. 37: this exhibition travelled to Birmingham, Ikon Gallery, February - April 1994; and Manchester, Whitworth Art Gallery, University of Manchester, April - June 1994.
St Ives, Tate Gallery, Into Seeing New: The Art of Roger Hilton, October 2006 - January 2007, exhibition not numbered.
Special notice

Artist's Resale Right ("Droit de Suite"). Artist's Resale Right Regulations 2006 apply to this lot, the buyer agrees to pay us an amount equal to the resale royalty provided for in those Regulations, and we undertake to the buyer to pay such amount to the artist's collection agent.

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William Porter
William Porter

Lot Essay

‘Painting is feeling. Just as much as a sentence describes, so a sequence of colours describes … I feel the shape and colours inside myself. I have the feel of a work rather than a vision of it’ (R. Hilton, ‘Remarks about Painting’, exhibition catalogue, Roger Hilton, Zurich, Galerie Charles Lienhard, 1961).

July 1960 is a painting about paint: its abstraction aids the form, space and movement being created by Hilton’s expressive technique. The picture is dominated by an ethereal form of white impasto paint that seeps down from the upper edge of the canvas. The texture of the paint is thick, emphasised by the ground of the bare canvas. To its left, streaks of blue sweep down from the upper edge; rhythmic lines of charcoal in the corner below. However, despite its shape and abstract aesthetic, it maintains an organic rather feel than a geometric nature. This style marks the greatest period of Roger Hilton’s work. Analysis should be formal for such a piece of work; it is not necessary to waste time discussing symbolism and narrative, it is a painting about paint.

It took some time for Hilton to develop this style of works for which he is now best known. By the mid 1950s, he had developed his own brand of abstraction and established himself as one of the most inventive artists on the British scene. Born in Middlesex, Hilton studied at the Slade (1929-31) and later in Paris, where he was inspired by Tachisme, in the expression of Serge Poliakoff and the spatial consideration of Constant Nieuwenhuys. Like many British artists of the 20th Century, Hilton was captivated by the light of West Cornwall, where he spent increasingly more time and by July 1960, many of his abstract works were being given the title of the month and year in which they were made.

The European influence in Hilton’s art has encouraged the sense of sprezzatura, that style which appears effortless but is, in fact, highly considered and painstakingly crafted. His working style evolved creating progressive studies of works over years. Sketches, not as grounding for the work but rehearsals for the main event, were made extensively. Every morning, before going to the studio, sketches were made at his breakfast table, the spirit of which were carried through to his painting, giving the series of works a sense of rehearsed spontaneity. The charcoal lines began to appear in his works between 1955-56, first clinging to the dominating paint forms and in subsequent works moving further out, into their own space independent of other forms in the composition, as can be seen here. Hilton dismissed the tradition that charcoal was a preparatory stage for painting, instead applying it to the canvas in the final stages of the work’s creation.

Although the influence of Abstract Expressionism affected the contemporary art scene in general, Hilton dismisses the idea of the movement impacting on him personally, being vocally critical of the artists and their ‘extreme flatness, emptiness and bigness’, instead favouring the ‘re-complication of the picture surface’, as Heron phrased it (see exhibition catalogue, Roger Hilton: Swinging Out into the Void, Cambridge, Kettle’s Yard, 2008). These paths converged in the expressive use and technique of painting taking precedence over longstanding traditional Western codes of representation and imagery. The relationship between the artist and his work is experiential, having ‘the feel of a work rather than a vision of it’, something which the work passes on to the viewer.


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