Lot 13
  • 13

Ivon Hitchens

Estimate
80,000 - 120,000 GBP
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Description

  • Ivon Hitchens
  • Juno Reclining
  • stamped with Estate stamp on the reverse
  • oil on canvas
  • 51 by 77.5cm.; 20 by 30½in.
  • Executed in 1934.

Provenance

The Estate of the Artist
Jonathan Clark Fine Art, London, where acquired by the present owner in 2009

Exhibited

London, Jonathan Clark Fine Art, Ivon Hitchens - Unseen Paintings from the 30s, 23rd September - 10th October 2009, cat. no.7. 

Catalogue Note

Juno Reclining was painted in Hitchens’s studio at Adelaide Road, Hampstead, just around the corner from the Mall Studios, which in the 1930s had become home to Nicholson, Hepworth and Moore – thus making this always bohemian corner of London the epicentre of the British avant-garde.

Hitchens, though, had lived in Hampstead since 1919 and so was well equipped to stay at a distance from the encircling new intellectual milieu, remaining committed to the path he had already embarked upon. His paintings from the 1930s come onto the market so rarely that one tends to consider this period as ‘early’, as opposed to the ‘classic’ landscapes of the 1940s and '50s.  However, as Juno Reclining amply illustrates, even by 1934, much of Hitchens’s signature style was already in place:  the exquisite balance between figuration and abstraction, as well as the use of unpainted areas of white ground to create a sense of space around elements of the composition whilst simultaneously re-asserting the painting’s status as a flat object.  There are also the complex variations of brushstrokes and the shifts in weighting of paint on brush, from overloaded through to almost dry, which gives his work, simultaneously, an incredible lightness and richness.

Hitchens’ model, Juno, who features in a number of works from this year, reclines on an old divan strewn with prettily-dyed throws, with the battered screen to the top right symbolic of the flimsy division between home and studio life. The celadon vase to the model’s left has no doubt been recently emptied of the flowers, loosely arranged and often kept in their paper wrappers, which were the artist’s other key preoccupation at the time. 

Juno Reclining was first shown only in 2009, in an exhibition of work drawn entirely from the Artist’s estate, entitled Unseen Paintings from the 30s.  This exhibition was, in many ways, the show Hitchens should have had in the late 30s, had the Artist not been forced to pack up his studio after it suffered bomb damage. All the works had been carefully rolled up and stored, so Hitchens could re-use the stretchers for new paintings. Slowly, over time, as Hitchens’s studio in rural Sussex grew, from a gypsy caravan to a low-slung complex of brick buildings, these paintings were squirrelled away, only to be rediscovered by the Artist’s son 70 years later.

The exhibition formed a comprehensive retrospective of the decade during which Hitchens  took what he had gleaned from Cézanne and Braque and integrated it into his own more fluid, intuitive approach to picture-making.  Furthermore, it crystallized Hitchens’ aesthetic of the inter-war years: a very English Arcadia of timeless landscapes, picnics à la Manet’s Le Déjeuner sur l’herbe, where the class and gender politics of the metropolis are left far behind, and of the quiet, intimate world of the studio and the Artist’s deeply personal enquiry into what it is to be Modern.

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