Roger Hilton



Not on display

Roger Hilton 1911–1975
Oil paint and charcoal on canvas
Support: 1016 × 762 mm
frame: 1147 × 873 × 64 mm
Purchased 1977

Display caption

In the early 1970s Hilton executed fewer oil paintings. Ill health was approaching and from October 1972 until his death in February 1975 he was confined to bed. During this time he completed numerous brightly-coloured paintings in gouache (a kind of poster paint) on paper. Some of these are figurative, some abstract. Given his situation, the vitality of these works is remarkable. 'Untitled 1971' is among Hilton's last oil paintings and it anticipates the uninhibited energy and invention of his gouaches. Hilton commented: 'I like my colours dynamic and strongly contrasted. After all, one prefers something alive to something dead. The more alive a person or a picture, the better they are ...'

Gallery label, August 2004

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Catalogue entry

T02114 UNTITLED 1971 1971

Inscribed on reverse in charcoal ‘Hilton 71’
Oil and charcoal on canvas, 40 × 30 (101.5 × 76.1)
Purchased from Waddington Tooth Galleries (Grant-in-Aid) 1977
Exh: Roger Hilton: Works of the 'Sixties and ‘Seventies’, Waddington and Tooths Galleries, March 1977 (works not numbered).

In November 1965 Roger Hilton moved from London to Botallack Moor, St Just, Cornwall, where he lived until his death in February 1975. From October 1972 he was confined to bed through ill-health and was unable to paint in oils. On Christmas Day 1972 he started to paint in gouache, using poster paints given to his youngest son as a present. Later using bright colours he executed many figurative and non-figurative compositions. In many of the gouaches were depicted dogs, cats and other animals, some imaginary, female nudes, and landscapes, some of which suggested gardens.

In the late 1960s and early 1970s Hilton painted relatively few large oils. ‘Untitled 1971’, which is one of these is very similar in style and brightness of colour to many of the gouaches. It suggests a male and a female figure.

According to the artist's widow (letter of December 1977): '“Untitled 1971” was painted in the artist's studio in his house at Botallack. In the last year or two before the Autumn 1972 he painted erratically but when he did it was very intensely, for example if he was miserable, or when we had quarrelled. We spent the summer of 1970 in France and this gave him a certain degree of extra health and he would, in a way gather his forces together and disappear up to his studio and paint a picture now and again. But by no means regularly as he had done when we lived in Cathcart Road [before moving to Cornwall]. Then he went daily to his studio sometimes working on the picture the next day as well.

'They [Hilton's paintings of c. 1970–2] were, in a sense mood paintings, usually completed at one go (he never spent a single day without drawing).

‘It was, the picture [“Untitled 1971”] and later gouaches, a spontaneous outpouring of a life's experience of painting, I think.’

Published in:
The Tate Gallery 1976-8: Illustrated Catalogue of Acquisitions, London 1979


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