Lot 27
  • 27

Roger Hilton

70,000 - 100,000 GBP
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  • Roger Hilton
  • Untitled
  • signed and dated '66 on the reverse
  • oil and charcoal on canvas 
  • 91 by 76cm.; 36 by 29in.


Waddington Galleries, London, where acquired by Roger Mayne and thence by descent to the present owner


Penzance, Newlyn Gallery, Roger Hilton - A Centenary Celebration, 29th January - 2nd May 2011, cat. no.49.


The canvas is original, and appears sound. There are some undulations to the canvas in the upper third. There is a very faint mark from a stretcher bar along the lower edge. There are some fine lines craquelure to the lower left quadrant. There are also some very small flecks of paint loss at the bottom left edge. There may be a tiny trace of loss to one fo the thicker areas of black impasto in the upper right, and slight old frame abrasions visible in the top corners. There is some surface dirt, studio matter and detritus throughout; this is most visible in the areas of white pigment. There is also some staining to the paint surface in the lower right quadrant. Subject to the above the work is in overall very good condition. Inspection under ultra violet light reveals a small number of accretions in the lower right quadrant, but no obvious signs of fluorescence or retouching. The work is held in a simple wooden frame. Please telephone the department on +(44) 0207 293 6424 if you have any further questions regarding the present lot.
"In response to your inquiry, we are pleased to provide you with a general report of the condition of the property described above. Since we are not professional conservators or restorers, we urge you to consult with a restorer or conservator of your choice who will be better able to provide a detailed, professional report. Prospective buyers should inspect each lot to satisfy themselves as to condition and must understand that any statement made by Sotheby's is merely a subjective, qualified opinion. Prospective buyers should also refer to any Important Notices regarding this sale, which are printed in the Sale Catalogue.

Catalogue Note

Hilton's unique bold style that blended control with wild abandon had, by the time this painting was conceived in 1966, catapulted Hilton onto the international stage. Hilton was now an artist of worldwide renown, considered one of the most original and exciting painters of British Post-War art. He was represented by Waddington Galleries, one of the leading avant-garde London galleries of the time, and he was the winner of the John Moore’s prize in 1963, UNESCO prize at the Venice Biennale in 1964 and a reluctant recipient of a CBE. 

Hilton's primary concern was with the act of painting. Although there is an influence of contemporary European and American trends, his canvases come alive with an originality of expression as he fearlessly experiments with line, colour, space and texture in his work. As he aptly puts it: 'The greatest artist will be the one who most completely lets the medium shoulder the idea' (Roger Hilton, quoted in Into Seeing New: The Art of Roger Hilton, (exh. cat.), Tate St Ives, St Ives, 2006, p.6). In this work Hilton has used charcoal line on the canvas, which became a distinguishing feature of his oeuvre from 1956 onwards. He did not use charcoal as a means of under-painting or outlining a form as was traditionally expected. Rather, he drew over and onto the paint using a variety of densely worked strokes and barely discernible delicate traces, making the drawn line crucial to the composition, as important to the effect as his application of paint. Indeed, drawing was so important to Hilton that it formed part of his daily routine: he would draw every morning to engage his mind before commencing a painting. Chris Stephens describes the importance of the ‘drawn line’ in his work: 'There is something in the quality of these lines, in the quality of the paint and in the relationship between the two that is both suggestive and sensual. They serve as a record of the artist's hand but also of a more general touch, of a caress, and at the same time of something visceral if not abject' (ibid, p.14).

In the present work Hilton has perfected his use of these errant charcoal lines, placing them in perfect harmony to interact and create a tension with the solid masses of variously textured elastic blue pigment. These three forms are placed with a care that belies their seemingly spontaneous nature: they appear to float on the surface, silhouetted against the white background and pressing against the edges of the canvas. Mel Gooding explains: 'the shapes themselves are intuitively arrived at, and their relations with each other are arbitrary and unsystematic, inconclusive and mysterious' (Mel Gooding, 'Charms against Darkness: The Paintings of Roger Hilton', Roger Hilton, (exh. cat.), The Southbank Centre, London, 1993, p.11).

Roger Mayne and Hilton were neighbours in London; Mayne would photograph Hilton's paintings and also Hilton at work in his studio and the two became friends. In his photographs of Hilton at work (see fig.1), Mayne adeptly captures the dynamism and passion of his working methods. With Hilton's move to St Ives during his most erratic years in the late 1960s, Mayne remained a stalwart friend. His purchase of this work at Waddington's is testament to this continued support of, and belief in, his friend.