Exhibition Review: Ivon Hitchens, Unseen paintings from the 30’s

Jonathan Clark Fine Art, London, 2009

A small exhibition of previously unseen paintings by Ivon Hitchens has been on display at Jonathan Clark Fine Art in London. These were gorgeous, fresh images (the paintings had been rolled up and stored by the artist 70 years ago), very much more varied than the sort of works by Hitchens which trudge through the saleroom from time to time (and which used to populate those City boardrooms: see Book Reviews). For not only were these works unknown, but they were also from his early period, before he settled, like so many artists, into a sort of caricature of himself. In marked contrast to the later, rather repetitive variations on a land-scape theme, these pictures have variety, freshness and, above all, vigour. The subjects are treated with some élan. I particularly liked the Haystacks: Suffolk (illustrated) of 1933 and the fizzing colours of the Pink Sarong of about 1935. Hitchens was always a master of colour and the great body of his work set out in the standard work on him by Peter Khoroche shows this over and over again.

A terrific little exhibition, pointing up the need to keep on reminding ourselves that the 20th-century British art scene was made up of all sorts of cracking artists of different types, whose reputations are in regular need of rescuing and rediscovery as fashions change and memories fade.