Anthony Hill

Orthogonal / Diagonal Composition


Not on display

Anthony Hill 1930–2020
Blackboard paint and enamel paint on canvas
Support: 606 × 1216 mm
framed: 1333 × 723 × 67 mm
Purchased 1974

Display caption

This painting is the first of Hill's purely linear works. It can be 'read' in a number of ways. It is deliberately organized so that the junctions of the lines optically destabilize the composition, which can be broken up into lines, points, squares and triangles. Influences included earlier European abstraction, as well as Duchamp (Hill describes the work as a 'geometric readymade'). Most of Hill's subsequent abstract work has been in sculpture and relief.

Gallery label, August 2004

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Catalogue entry


Inscribed on back ‘Orthogonal/Diagonal Composition 1954 AH (monogram) 1954’
Blackboard black and ripolin on canvas, 23 13/16×47 15/16 (60.5×121.8)
Purchased from the artist through Annely Juda Gallery Ltd. (Knapping Fund) 1974
Exh: The Non-Objective World 1914–1955, Annely Juda Gallery, July–September 1973 and subsequent tour (58 repr.)
Repr: Catalogue of exhibition Aspects of Abstract Art in Britain 1910–1960, Talbot Rice Centre, University of Edinburgh, August–September 1974 (25), though in fact a smaller version of the work was exhibited

The following notes, approved by the artist, are based on conversations with him of February 1975 and March 1976 and a written statement of February 1975.

This painting is number 37 in the artist's catalogue of his own works and was painted in his studios in Hunter Street, off Brunswick Square, London. It was his first purely linear work.

In the statement Hill wrote of T01906:

'Two half-size studies exist for this work, they were done to investigate the media-contrast. In the large version the white is glossy and the black matt.

‘Physically the stability of the linear structure is optically as unstable at the interior junctions and this is deliberate. The composition can be “read” in a number of different ways. In terms of continuous lines one can see it as comprising 9 “trajectories” but broken down to shortest units it can be read as comprising 26 lines (4 horizontal, 6 vertical and 16 diagonal, eight each to the left and right). Again one can choose to see 17 nodal points (2 of degrees 3, 8 of degree 4-on the boundary and in the interior 4 of degree 4 and 3 of degree 6). In terms of areas one sees 4 squares and 16 triangles. Van Doesburg and Max Bill were influences, but so was Duchamp in that the composition was a “geometric readymade” and is designed to function as an “eye tear” (“temoins occuliste”)’.

The two half-size studies (both in private collections) were painted after, not before T01906. In one both the black and white areas were painted with shiny enamel paint (ripolin). Hill used this paint as he was interested in simulating industrial surfaces. In the other study both black and white areas were painted to give a matt finish, using blackboard black and oil paint respectively.

In 1954 Hill also painted ‘Orthogonal Composition’ in which black rectangular blocks of colour were surrounded with areas of white (number 35 in the artist's catalogue of his works, repr. pl.25 in Nine Abstract Artists, ed. Lawrence Alloway, 1954).

Published in:
The Tate Gallery 1974-6: Illustrated Catalogue of Acquisitions, London 1978

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