Established Artist – 1893-1979
English painter. He exhibited with the 7 & 5 society in 1921 and continued to do so throughout the 1920s. He soon became part of the circle of artists known as the London Group. Hints of his mature style can be found in the delicate green-grey shades of a still-life such as Spring Mood No. 2 (1933; artist’s estate), which was influenced by Braque, but he also experimented with pure abstraction, as in Coronation (1937; London, Tate). After his house was bombed in 1940 he moved to a patch of woodland near Petworth, W. Sussex, living at first in a caravan which later acquired numerous outbuildings. He worked there for the next 40 years, distanced from the predominantly literary currents of British modern art. In his commitment to colour and open brushwork he was closer to the modern French masters, especially in his Fauvist orange nudes set in sunlit interiors. He painted mostly outdoors, however, and his technique developed from a tonal treatment that recalled the informality of Constable’s sketches.
Hitchens neither painted landscape as a detached observer, nor did he abstract forms from nature, and he valued the disciplines of Cézanne too highly to allow structure to be controlled by subjective response alone. His output was prodigious, but of uneven quality. The freshness of colour in the paintings of his last years could either burst open in glorious flourishes, or lie dormant in secretive greys. He was an isolated figure but his art was never eccentric.