Hitchens loved painting poppies, but was continually caught out by the inconsiderate habit the flowers had of fading or dropping their petals. He wrote in a letter late in life: ‘I am caught up in the visual tyranny of these blasted poppies. I fail each year to organise roots in advance. Then, finding after all that they “kick off” for the year, I have to badger shops & neighbours to obtain samples to augment our own failing supply. They set an endless problem of how to “compose”, “create”, “reorganise” the brilliant colours that hit one in the eye. It takes a day to collect them, see & plan & prepare canvas, brushes, set-up generally — then next day, when one is all set up and ready — the petals drop off — the sun goes in.’ But when it did work, as in this exquisite and hugely simplified study of two square-ish blooms, his particular combination of delicacy and boldness is hard to beat.