Following the bombing of his home in London, Hitchens and his family moved to Sussex in 1940. This move to the countryside contributed greatly to his change of style in the early 1940s, and the present lot, although undated, is probably painted during this period. The period proved to be a turning point for Hitchens: not only did his palette become more varied and bright, but he gradually painted in a more abstract manner, although still drawing upon the landscape for inspiration.
In the early 1940s, Hitchens had a house built on his land in Sussex and called it Greenleaves. The house and studio were small and crowded, and it is likely that this is the location of this painting. He adds affectionate domestic details to the scene: there is a kettle outlined in black on the right hand side of the picture and possibly an apron hanging up just to the left of the centre of the composition. Despite these figurative elements, he is also concerned with the patterns that these objects create and their decorative qualities. For example, the apron is decorated with large daubs of paint and he has also picked out black swirling patterns on the orange wall to the left. In painting these details, Hitchens looks to Matisse and Bonnard; like them, he treats the canvas as a flat surface upon which blocks of colour and patterned shapes make up the composition and, like Bonnard, he also portrays an intimate interior space. Hitchens was increasingly aware of the flat surface of the canvas and the effect of the paint upon it. Later in his career he would support this: 'In a good painting one should get pleasure from the paint - the weight of paint, the thickness and thinness of paint ... All these go to make up the liveliness of the canvas ... and can be appreciated by the spectator before ever he looks into the picture's depth to discover what it is expressing' (see P. Khoroche, Ivon Hitchens, London, 1990, p. 57). His use of paint is varied and interesting: at times dry and merely suggestive, and at times thick and wet.
The painting refers to both his previous work and his later paintings. He is concerned both with formal concepts of design and pattern, as well as providing the scene with spatial depth and a sense of perspective. He paints an open window at the back of the room, juxtaposing the busy small interior with the open space of the Sussex landscape. The figurative elements of the picture and the dark colouring in the landscape glimpsed out of the open window hint at his previous work, particularly of the middle to late 1930s, and the unusual signature, 'ivon', is seen only occasionally in some earlier works, for example Still Life with Lilies, 1935 (private collection). The use of some brighter colours however, and his increasing painterly concern suggests that this painting was completed on the cusp of Hitchens' stylistic change. The lengthening of the canvas format is also evidence of his evolving style. Hitchens moved away from painting on square pieces of canvas, preferring the longer format that is typical of his pictures from the 1940s onwards: 'there is no 'progress', no time element in a square picture, which the eyes see all at once' (speaking to Howard Bliss in 1947, see P. Khoroche, Ivon Hitchens, London, 1990, p. 46). He chose this format because he felt it suggested a sense of progression, continuity and fluidity through time and space. This is enhanced by his use of vertical lines running from top to bottom of the canvas on either side of the open window and to the left of the apron. Hitchens said that 'all the areas of the canvas should be consciously planned in movements as well as representing objects' (P. Khoroche, Ivon Hitchens, London, 1990, p. 54).