IVON HITCHENS (1893-1979)
IVON HITCHENS (1893-1979)
IVON HITCHENS (1893-1979)
IVON HITCHENS (1893-1979)
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IVON HITCHENS (1893-1979)

Decoration for a Music Room

IVON HITCHENS (1893-1979)
Decoration for a Music Room
signed 'HITCHENS 33' (lower centre)
oil and collage on canvas
66 x 81 in. (167.6 x 205.7 cm.)
Painted in 1933.
The artist's estate.
with Jonathan Clark Fine Art, London, where purchased by the present owner.
A. Bowness (ed.), Ivon Hitchens, London, 1973, n.p., no. 151, illustrated.
Exhibition catalogue, Twentieth Century British Painting, London, Jonathan Clark Fine Art, 2001, n.p., no. 4, illustrated.
London, Alex. Reid & Lefevre, New Paintings by Ivon Hitchens, October 1933, no. 32.
London, Jonathan Clark Fine Art, Twentieth Century British Painting, Spring 2001, no. 4.

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Lot Essay

In the 1920s and 1930s, Hitchens lived and worked in Hampstead, and there he witnessed the transformation of this bohemian area into a hub for the British avant-garde. A lively circle of artists and intellectuals were drawn to the area, including Ben Nicholson, Barbara Hepworth, Cecil Stephenson and Herbert Read, who all lived in the Mall studios. Hampstead became an epicentre for conversations and development of thought which would come to define early advances of British abstraction.

Unlike many of his fellow contemporaries, Hitchens did not fully embrace abstraction but chose to follow his own visual language: a practice of figuration which adopts elements of abstraction and strives to achieve a sense of formal harmony between colour, mark-making and representational function. Hitchens explains how he aimed to achieve an understanding ‘in which surface pattern and spatial recession sing together and each part of the canvas is in relationship to every other part – in which pigment and brush-stroke can be appreciated for their own sake, yet mysteriously and simultaneously suggest something seen and felt’ (I. Hitchens, quoted in P. Khoroche, Ivon Hitchens, Aldershot, 2007, p. 106).

Decoration for a Music Room, painted in 1933, demonstrates Hitchens’ playful approach to figuration as it displays his ability to imbue the canvas with an abstract lyrical quality whilst balancing this with a sense of the familiar. Alongside the identifiable forms, such as the outline of flowers and the bust of a nude, the present work retains a whimsical quality, characterised by rhythmic mark-making and Hitchens’ technique of layering fields of colour to create the illusion of depth and the recession of space. As a result of this technique, the viewer’s eye is led to negotiate the juxtaposition between tones, two dimensional forms and implied space.

Hitchens hoped that his paintings could be ‘listened to’, the viewer could enter the picture and read or ‘listen’ from form to form, as if being carried from note to note. The title of the present work reiterates this link between his paintings and music, and in 1933 he wrote: ‘I often find music a stimulus to creation, and it is the linear, tonal and colour harmony and the rhythm of nature which interests me – what I call the ‘musical appearance of things’… I should like to be able to put on canvas this underlying harmony which I first feel rather than see, and then extract from the facts of nature, distil and later develop according to the needs of the canvas’ (I. Hitchens quoted in P. Khoroche, Ivon Hitchens, Aldershot, 2007, p. 152).

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