Roger Hilton (1911 - 1975)

Self portrait, mid 1930’s

SKU: 7971


Height – 26.7cm
Width – 20.8cm


Dan Klein Ltd
Llewellyn, Sacha, and Paul Liss. Portrait of an Artist. Liss Llewellyn, 2021, p.311.

Hilton was a pioneer of Abstraction in post Second-World war Britain. He studied at the Slade School of Fine Art, London. This portrait was probably made during Hilton’s stay in Paris during the 1930s, a flamboyant time during which artists such as Picasso, Modigliani, Ernst, Magritte, Chagall and many other pioneers dominated the Parisian Art scene. By 1940, Hilton was serving in the Army and became a prisoner of war after  the Dieppe Raid in August 1942. It wasn’t until the 1950s that Hilton threw himself fully into the British Abstraction scene, finally moving to Cornwall  and becoming a prominent member of the St. Ives School,

The self portrait, which is clearly from a sketch book, can be compared to a slightly later version in collection of the National Portrait Gallery.

We are grateful for Adrian Lewis and Matthew Hilton for assistance.

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Roger Hilton
1911 - 1975

Painter, born in Northwood, Middlesex, who studied at the Slade, 1929-31 and again 1935-36, also under Bissière at the AcadŽ mie Ranson, Paris. In 1936 he held his first solo exhibition at the Bloomsbury Gallery, London. About this time he also showed with the little-known Twenties Group at the Lucy Wertheim Gallery. Joining the army in 1940, he served in the Commandos, and became a prisoner of war after the Dieppe Raid in August 1942. He experimented with ways of depicting forms in space, first displaying them in a illusory space, then as if on thee surface alone, then as if floating in water. He won the 1963 John Moores Painting Prize and was appointed CBE in 1968. He turned to abstract art around 1950, influenced by Tachisme and encouraged by friendship with members of the Cobra Group in particular the Dutch artist Constant Niewenhuis. Hilton travelled to Paris and Amsterdam to study the work of Mondrian and began producing very austere abstracts, using only black, white, and small sectors of earth colours. During the mid-1950’s he taught at the Central School of Art, 1954-56, during which time he began making visits to Cornwall, staying first with Patrick Heron, who London house was just round the corner,  then renting a studio for summer use at Newlyn. 

He finally moved permanently to Cornwall in 1965 and became part at the St. Ives group. Landscape undertones began to creep into his abstracts, and figurative ingredients returned, but his style remained vigorously coarse, like his personality often egged on by an excess of alcohol. Humour entered his late work when, confined to bed due to peripheral neuropathy during the last two-and-a-half years of his life, he found emotional release through the painting of gouaches in which hectic colours and childlike drawing combined with his aesthetic craftiness and immense appetite for life. 
He won first prize at the John Moores Liverpool Exhibition in 1963 and represented Britain at the Venice Biennale in 1964 when he was awarded the UNESCO prize. Hilton was appointed CBE in 1968. He exhibited at Gimpel Fils, London, between 1952 and 1956 and at Waddington Galleries, London, from 1960. A Centenary exhibition was held at Newlyn Art Gallery, in 2011. 

He was the husband of the musician Ruth David and secondly the artist Rose Hilton and the father of artist and printmaker Matthew Hilton. 

Examples of his paintings are held by Aberdeen Art Gallery, Arts Council England, Ashmolean Museum, Bradford Museums and Galleries, Bristol City Museum and Art Gallery, British Council, Colchester and Ipswich Museum Service, Cornwall Council, Ferens Art Gallery, Fitzwilliam Museum, Government Art Collection, Hepworth Wakefield, Huddersfield Art Gallery, Kettle’s Yard, Lakeland Arts Trust, Leicester Arts and Museums Service, Manchester City Galleries, Museums Sheffield, National Museums Northern Ireland, Pier Arts Centre, Plymouth Art Gallery, National Gallery of Scotland, National Museums Liverpool, Rugby Museum and Art Gallery, Southampton Art Gallery, Rye Art Gallery, Swindon Art Gallery, Tate Gallery, Towner Art Gallery, Ulster Museum and the Whitworth Art Gallery. Museums abroad including the Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam, Gulbenkian Foundation, Lisbon, National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa, and the Museum des 20 Jahrhunderts, Vienna also hold his work. 
Roger Hilton’s Night Letters, with an introduction by Michael Canney, Newlyn Orion Galleries, Newlyn, 1980. ISBN: 0950657913. 
The Last Days of Hilton: The Gouaches of Roger Hilton 1973-75 by Adrian Lewis. Published by Sansom & Co, 1996. ISBN:1900178052. 
Roger Hilton: The Figured Language of Thought by Andrew Lambirth. Published by Thames and Hudson Ltd, 2007. ISBN: 9780500093344 
Roger Hilton by Adrian Lewis. Published by Ashgate Publishing Limited, 2003. ISBN: 1840146737.


Roger Hilton (1911 - 1975)
Self portrait, mid 1930’s