Ivon Hitchens

A house under hills

Oil on canvas: 16(h) x 36(w) in /

40.6(h) x 91.4(w) cm

Signed lower right: Hitchens; signed, dated and inscribed on the artist’s label attached to the stretcher: ‘A House Under Hills’ 1963 / by Ivon Hitchens / Presented by Mrs MC Hitchens to Victor Waddington Esq., Xmas 1963

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BT 299



London 1893 – 1979 Petworth


A house under hills


Signed lower right: Hitchens; signed, dated and inscribed on the artist’s label attached to the stretcher: ‘A House Under Hills’ 1963 /16 x 36 inches/by Ivon Hitchens/Presented by Mrs MC Hitchens to Victor Waddington Esq., Xmas 1963

Oil on canvas: 16 x 36 in / 40.6 x 91.4 cm

Frame size: 26 x 46 in / 66 x 116.8 cm



Mrs MC Hitchens

Victor Waddington Esq., gifted from the above, Christmas 1963

Bryan Pearson, First Mayor of Iqaluit, Nunavut, Canada, then by descent



When questioned about the influence of Far Eastern art on his painting, Hitchens replied, mystifyingly, that he felt a greater affinity with Indian art. Rather than an attempt to cover his tracks, this was more probably due to forgetfulness. For the theoretical basis of Hitchens’ painting, as he openly acknowledged, was Arthur Wesley Dow’s immensely influential textbook, Composition (1899 and many times reprinted), itself founded on the ideals and practice of Japanese art as mediated by his mentor, Ernest Fenollosa.


A House under Hills is a good example of Hitchens’ perhaps unconscious absorption of the principles of Far Eastern ink painting, where empty space balances and heightens the effect of shapes and masses and where the brush strokes, expressive in themselves, are part of the picture’s design. The long sweeping strokes that drive upwards and leftwards from the bottom of the canvas guide one to four distinct statements, each inhabiting its own space, each intriguing for its brushwork and colour combination, and together setting up a rhythm that mounts upwards and rightwards until brought to a halt by the mass of blue surging downwards in the opposite direction. A shallow arc leads the eye back to a further contemplation of the four separate colour patches and thus momentarily distracts one from the very understated, half-hidden outline of the roof of a house screened by trees. The effect is just like that in a Japanese ink painting where one suddenly discerns the roof of a hermit’s diminutive hut, perched on a mountainside, seemingly lost in a vast landscape. Which is not to suggest that Hitchens’ painting is ‘about’ human frailty in the face of nature. Despite a lifelong admiration for the noble sentiments expressed in the paintings of G.F. Watts, Hitchens firmly believed that ‘painting is painting. It exists as a creation in its own right—just as music’.


                                                                                                                              Peter Khoroche



London 1893 – 1979 Petworth


Ivon Sydney Hitchens was the only child of landscape painter 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 1914.


After graduating from the RA Schools, Hitchens moved into a studio at 169 Adelaide Road, Hampstead in 1919 and became part of a circle of avant-garde British artists including Barbara Hepworth, Henry Moore, Paul Nash and Ben Nicholson. In 1921 he exhibited for the first time with the Seven & Five Society, and was elected a member the following year.  In 1925 he held his first one-man show at The Mayor Gallery, London. Hitchens was elected a member if the London Artists’ Association in 1929 and a member of the London Group in 1931. In 1937, he became an elected member of the Society of Mural Painters. The artists 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. 1940 also marked the first of ten one-man exhibitions for the artist at the Leicester Galleries. 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.


Select Bibliography


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




Post War BritishIvon Hitchens