During the Second World War, the Hitchens family (Ivon, Mary and their young son, John, who had been in born April 1940) were forced to leave their Hampstead home and studio and evacuate to the Sussex countryside. The move created a turning point in Hitchens' art and life: Peter Khoroche (Ivon Hitchens, London, 1990, p. 51) comments, 'it was as though he had broken free from former constraints and could now follow his own path with certainty. His pictures of the early forties, painted with unprecedented assurance and vitality, suggest an uprush of energy - a renewal through contact with nature. Reviewing them in the New Statesmen (4 April 1942), Clive Bell wrote: 'To have made progress during the last years an artist must be capable of living, as an artist should, for and by his art: Ivon Hitchens has made more than progess, he has made a leap forward'.
The distinctive harmonies of sage-green, grey and beige-brown to which one had become accustomed during the thirties now gave way to deep red, rich brown, mauve and yellow. Sketchbooks were filled with drawings of mother and child, and this theme inspired a whole series of canvases painted both inside and outside the studio. In their subject-matter, deployment of colour and handling of paint the interiors recall both Matisse and Bonnard, while the group painted out of doors - called John by Jordan ('Jordan' being the name of a tin bath) [see lot 65 in the present sale] - is more purely original, with sunlit figures seen against a dark background of trees and rhododendron thickets. These paintings evoke a paradise regained where the archetypal family can live in primal innocence and happiness, at one with nature - an image heightened by contrast with the menace of war'.