Oil on canvas: 24.3(h) x 53.5(w) in /
61.6(h) x 135.9(w) cm
Signed lower right: Hitchens; signed, dated and inscribed on the artist’s label attached to the stretcher:"September water" 1964 / by IVON HITCHENS / Greenleaves Petworth Sussex England
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IVON HITCHENS CBE
London 1893 – 1979 Petworth
Signed lower right: Hitchens; signed, dated and inscribed on the artist’s label attached to the stretcher: E “September water” 1964 / by IVON HITCHENS / Greenleaves Petworth Sussex England
Oil on canvas: 24 ¼ x 53 ½ in / 61.6 x 135.9 cm
Frame size: 33 ¼ x 62 ¾ in / 84.5 x 159.4 cm
Waddington Galleries, Montreal
Christies London, 25th November 1993, lot 141;
David Bowie, acquired from the above
Ivon Hitchens would have explained his lifelong attraction to water by the fact that he was born under Pisces. However that may be, one of the very few things that could distract him from the imperative demands of painting was the prospect of a day out fishing. His entry for Who’s Who included the information “Recreation: Streams”, but the hours spent in or beside water, rod in hand, were not lost to painting since they allowed him the opportunity to store images and sensations that would later inform his canvases.
Water was always a favourite subject but never more so, it would seem, than in the early 1960s when he produced several series, of ten or more paintings each, devoted to water seen at different seasons and times of day, in different weathers and surroundings and from different distances, near and far. Warnford Water 1959-60, Summer Water 1961, Foliage by Water 1962 and Water Beyond 1963, whether judged by group or by individual paintings within the group, are among his finest and most characteristic achievements. September Water is not itself part of a series but, like such paintings as Winter Water 1961 and Dark December Water 1961, is one among a number of satellites. Since within it the surroundings compete with the water for attention, it may be seen as a reprise of the theme of the Foliage by Water series.
After first establishing the late summer mood of the painting by applying a creamy yellow priming, Hitchens sets up a fundamental opposition between busyness on the right and calm on the left. The typical double-square format then allows him to create five vertical ‘chords’ of colour, each strongly contrasting with its neighbour. Except for the stretch of water that recedes towards a distant landscape on the left, every other chord is complex both in colour and shape and despite hints of tree trunks and foliage scattered here and there, and a clump of reeds rising reassuringly from the water, attempts at precise identification are likely to be baffled. In fact, it is far from easy to penetrate into the picture, which is what one instinctively wants to do but which Hitchens teasingly keeps one from doing. That black area, bottom right—is it a path? The scattered twigs at its entrance invite one to think so. But where does it lead? What lies around the corner? And what is one to make of the tilting staircase of blue right in the middle of the picture? If such uncertainties worry you, then this is not the picture for you. If you positively enjoy the dance that Hitchens leads you, while occasionally taking a rest on the calm water, then I think you will have got the point of the picture.
IVON HITCHENS CBE
London 1893 – 1979 Petworth
Sydney Ivon Hitchens was the only child of artist Alfred Hitchens and Ethel Margaret Seth-Smith, a talented amateur artist. Following his early education at Conamur School, Sandgate, Kent, Hitchens attended Bedales School, Hampshire from 1903 until acute appendicitis cut short his school days and sent him on a recuperative voyage to New Zealand. Hitchens’ art education began at St John’s Wood School of Art, London from 1911 and continued at the Royal Academy Schools from 1912-16. He returned to the RA Schools between 1918-19, following two years’ service in hospital supply during the First World War. Still not fully recovered from his youthful illness, Hitchens was declared unfit for active service in 1916.
After graduating from the RA Schools, Hitchens moved into a studio at 169 Adelaide Road, Hampstead in 1919 and later became part of a circle of avant-garde British artists including Barbara Hepworth, Henry Moore, Paul Nash and Ben Nicholson living in Hampstead in the 1930s. In 1920 he exhibited at the first exhibition of the Seven & Five Society, becoming a member that same year. Hitchens was elected a member if the London Artists’ Association in 1929, of the London Group in 1931 and of the Society of Mural Painters in 1937. The artist exhibited with the Leicester Galleries from 1940 until 1960, when he moved to the Waddington Galleries. Hitchens married Mary Cranford Coates on 27th June 1935. He and his wife left London in 1940 with their only child, John, for a caravan at Greenleaves, Lavington Common near Petworth, Sussex, after a bomb landed next door to his Hampstead studio. For the next forty years, Hitchens’ six acres of woodland near Midhurst became his home, place of study and constant source of inspiration.
In 1951 the artist won a purchase prize at the Festival of Britain exhibition, 60 paintings for ‘51. Hitchens completed a mural at Cecil Sharp House, Regent’s Park Road in 1954, and installed another mural at University of Sussex in 1962. In 1956 the British Council arranged a retrospective exhibition of his work for the Venice Biennale. In 1957 Hitchens was created CBE. A major retrospective of Hitchens’ work was arranged by the Arts Council at the Tate Gallery, London in 1963. In 1979 a third retrospective exhibition was held at RA Diploma Galleries.
Patrick Heron, Ivon Hitchens, The Penguin Modern Painters, Penguin Books, Middlesex, 1955
Alan Bowness (ed.), with an introduction by TG Rosenthal, Ivon Hitchens, Lund Humphries, London, 1973
Peter Khoroche, Ivon Hitchens, Andre Deutch, London, 1990
Peter Khoroche, Ivon Hitchens, Lund Humphries, Aldershot, 2007