Roger Hilton was one of the pioneers of abstract art in post-war Britain. Born in Middlesex, he studied at the Slade School of Fine Art in London from 1929 to 1931 and in Paris, where he developed links with painters on the Continent. During this time, he showed annually with the London Group and had his first exhibition at the Bloomsbury Gallery in 1936. He served with the commandos during World War II, was captured and spent three years as a prisoner of war. After the war, between 1946 and 1947 he taught at Bryanston School and resumed his visits to Paris. Based on his visits to France and influenced by Mondrian’s work while in the Netherlands in 1953, he started to produce abstract paintings. He had his first solo exhibition in 1952 at the Gimpel Fils gallery in London. Around 1956 Hilton’s inspiration was drawn from the colours and rhythms of the natural world which he observed on his frequent visits to St. Ives, Cornwall.
In the late 1950’s Hilton’s work became more figurative, following his frustration with the limitations of abstract painting. During the last period of his working life Hilton returned to the childlike subjects of animals, boats and nudes that had characterized his early work, using cheap poster paints and children’s brushes. Hilton deliberately approached his art with a childlike freshness of vision, but one marked by a lifetime’s experience. The basic simplicity of his approach to drawing is mixed with a deep understanding of abstraction and the final results are almost shaman-like, producing the atmosphere ancient cave art from pre-historic and aboriginal times.
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