Catalogue entry

Roger Hilton 1911-1975

T01854 Untitled c.1956–7 (also known as ‘Underwater Scene April 1947’)

Inscribed ‘HILTON/APRIL‘47/UNDERWATER SCENE’ on the back.
Canvas, 24 x 20 (61 x 51).
Purchased from the artist through the Waddington Galleries (Grant-in-Aid) 1974.
Exh: Serpentine Gallery, March 1974, (6, as ‘“Underwater Scene”, April 1947’).
Lit: David Brown, ‘Roger Hilton; paintings and drawings 1931–1973 at the Serpentine Gallery’, Studio International, April 1974, Review pp.11–12 (repr. as ‘“Underwater Scene”, April 1947’).

The inscription on the back of the canvas was painted at the time Hilton was selecting work for the Arts Council exhibition at the Serpentine Gallery. According to David Brown the artist is not certain whether the date is correct. It seems likely on stylistic grounds that the painting was done in the second half of the 1950s.

In a telephone conversation with David Brown (8 March 1974) the artist said he painted the picture in England, almost certainly in London and that he chose the subject because it was an excuse to paint a nude in a green sea. However, in a dictated answer (10 May 1974) to a questionnaire from the compiler, the artist stated categorically that he had only painted one underwater scene in his life and that T01854 was not this painting.

Asked about the possible influence of Paul Klee in this work the artist replied ‘Every painter should be interested in Klee, he is a great artist, this doesn’t mean to say that he was a strong influence on me at that time. I have listed my strong influences in the March issue of Studio International.’ (March 1974, pp.117–121).

In answer to the question did the half-moon, boat-shaped form in this and other later abstract paintings stand for a female figure, the artist said ‘No—it is a boat, but a boat symbolises women as everybody knows.’

Published in The Tate Gallery Report 1972–1974, London 1975.