HITCHENS, Ivon

Ivon Hitchens  British 1893-1979

Ivon Hitchens, painter and print maker,  born in London in 1893, son of the landscape artist Alfred Hitchens. Between 1912 and 1919, during the First World War, he studied at St John’s Wood School of Art and at the Royal Academy. In 1922, Hitchens began exhibiting with the 7 & 5 society in London. This group of artists was founded in 1919 and was initially conservative in outlook, intending to promote a ‘return to order’ following the First World War. However, shortly after Hitchens became a member, the group was joined by modernist artists Ben Nicholson, Barbara Hepworth, Henry Moore and later John Piper. This avant-garde contingent effectively appropriated the society and expelled members with a more traditional artistic ideology. Hitchens embraced the ideas on artistic abstraction advocated by his fellow members. During the 1920s and ’30s Hitchens lived and worked Hampstead, within the avant-garde circle known as the London Group, which also included émigré artists from Germany. This incorporated members of the 7 & 5 society as well as artists such as Naum Gabo and Paul Nash. However, he and his wife were compelled to leave London in 1940 after a bomb landed next door to his studio. They moved to a patch of woodland called Greenleaves, near Petworth in West Sussex. Hitchens spent the next 40 years at Greenleaves, deeply absorbed by and involved in the countryside around him. Detached from the currents of British modernism, he was able to develop his style freely. Hitchens was particularly inspired by the modern French masters, especially the Fauves. Like them, Hitchens was more concerned with portraying the sensations of nature than nature itself. His broad canvases allow a panoramic experience of the smells, colours and textures of his surroundings. His characteristic manner involves sweeps, dabs and blocks of colour applied with broad brushes and often set against a bare white ground. Although apparently applied with spontaneous energy his

Although distant from the epicentre of British Artistic endeavour, Hitchens’ work continued to be appreciated and in 1951 he was awarded the Purchase Prize in the Arts Festival of Great Britain. In 1955, fellow artist, Patrick Heron wrote the first monograph on Ivon Hitchens. there have been no less than four major retrospectives of Hitchens’ oeuvre, held by the most prestigious museums and foundations in the country: The British Council (1952), The Tate (touring,1963), The Towner Gallery, Eastbourne (touring, 1968), The Royal Academy (touring, 1979) and The Serpentine Gallery (touring, 1989).

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