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'Figure, February 1962' is one of a number of large, overtly figurative paintings which Hilton began to paint in 1961. When first shown these works provoked dismay and amazement from previous admirers. In the early 1950s turning from figurative imagery to abstraction had been provocative. A decade later, for an abstract painter to paint figurative images seemed equally shocking. Also, the kind of figuration practised by Hilton seemed outrageous. It is not straightforwardly imitative or representational. As in this case, Hilton's figures have an awkwardness which recalls the direct, uninhibited quality of children's art. Yet this is married with a knowing sensuality, and a suggestive eroticism, which contradict any impression of naivety.

August 2004