Illustrated companion

A friend of Patrick Heron and William Scott, Roger Hilton settled in St Ives only in 1965, remaining until his death. However, from 1957 he spent increasing amounts of time in Cornwall and his painting quickly began to show that he was being affected by the shapes and colours of Cornwall, although many of his works also referred to the human figure, as seems to be the case with this one. In this respect his work fits closely the common St Ives preoccupation with the human presence in landscape and with translating the artist's awareness of that presence, and their own sensations in landscape, into terms of pure painting or sculpture. Barbara Hepworth's words are authoritative statements on this subject [see entry for Tate Gallery T00352].

This is a rare canvas from the last years of Hilton's life when he was generally too ill to work in oils, but produced large numbers of works in poster paint on paper depicting in brilliant colours and dynamic brushwork abstracted animal, landscape or human motifs. The suggestion here is of a male and a female figure. The male, on the right, appears to be sporting a large phallus. This painting shares the exuberance and vitality of colour and brushwork, the humour and imaginative freedom, common to Hilton's late work. The ambitious choice of medium for this time, the particular choice of motif and the vigour of its handling make it an exceptionally moving expression (reminiscent of the late work of Picasso of exactly the same period) of Hilton's continual affirmation of the forces of life in the face of his encroaching illness. His widow described this and related works as 'a spontaneous outpouring of a life's experience of painting'.

Published in:
Simon Wilson, Tate Gallery: An Illustrated Companion, Tate Gallery, London, revised edition 1991, p.224