Ivon Hitchens 1893-1979
April Nude No.1 1949
Oil on canvas 20 x 30 inches (51 x 76.5 cm)
Signed b.l. and signed, titled and dated on the stretcher
Purchased at The Leicester Galleries in 1950 by F.R.S. Yorke, and thence by descent.
Exhibition of Works by Ivon Hitchens, The Leicester Galleries, London, November 1950.
Ivon Hitchens (1893–1979) is much-loved for his landscape paintings featuring swathes of bright colour, many painted in the open air surrounding his secluded Sussex home. Yet as the excellent survey at Pallant House demonstrated, there is much more to this artist than the landscape work with which he often represented.
In 1950 The Leicester Galleries put on an exhibition devoted entirely to Ivon Hitchens' paintings of the nude. Its success forced those who had previously associated his name solely with landscape to reassess the artist and his stature. During the years 1948-52 figure painting and drawing formed a large part of Hitchens' work. Gradually he adapted the unique language that he had evolved for painting landscape to the different demands of the human body, achieving a new fluency and authority in works that bear his unmistakable stamp.
The present picture, with its sweeping rhythm, its virtuoso variety of brushmarks and its rich ochre palette, is one of the most successful of that period. There are stylistic connections to Matisse, whose work Hitchens had seen in London and the subject itself recalls Matisse’s languid odalisque studies of reclining nudes. With contours carefully picked out in earthy oranges, reds and browns, a sense of primality suffuses Hitchens' composition, a highly modern return to nature that reflects the influence of his woodland landscape paintings.
Ivon Hitchens in his studio in 1954 photographed by Ida Kar
Hitchens was a progressive artist in the 1920s and ‘30s. He was one of the earliest members of the experimental Seven and Five Society alongside Ben Nicholson, Henry Moore and Barbara Hepworth. He also tapped into what was happening on the continent, particularly in France.
The present picture was bought at the 1950 exhibition by F.R.S. Yorke, one of the most important modernist architects working in Britain. His seminal book The Modern House (1934) was a modernist bible that increased awareness and appreciation of modern domestic architecture in Britain. Following the principles of the Bauhaus Yorke designed a series of modernist concrete houses in Britain in the '30s sometimes in partnership with Marcel Breuer. In the post-War peiod his importance was marked with the major public commission for Gatwick Airport.
Torilla, Hatfield designed by F.R.S. Yorke in 1935