John Mcewen comments on Dancing Woman
Roger Hilton’s paternal heredity was immigrant Jewish. His family, cousins of the Warburg banking dynasty, anglicised their germanic Hildersheim surname in the First World War. His father was a gp, his mother a former slade student. she noted that, at four, he observed ‘things keenly’ and drew ‘with great spirit’. He proceeded to be a star student at the slade and spent two years in Paris, where the artist roger Bissiere described him as among the best pupils he had ever had.
Hilton’s architect brother John wrote: ‘He combined great emotional vulnerability with a hardiness that i could nowhere near match.’ it equipped him well for art and war. He distinguished himself as a commando, was captured in the Dieppe raid and survived a two-month-long forced march before his liberation in May 1945.
in 1959, Hilton, approaching the peak of his artistic success, took up with rose Phipps, recently graduated from the royal College. As his second wife, she proved a rock and bore them two sons, Fergus and Bo.
Many modern artists have aspired to the spontaneity of children’s painting before imitation and conformity sets in. this suited Hilton’s character. Painting for him was to enable ‘the spirit to breathe’. He worked spontaneously and dispensed with frames. Childhood spiritedness and keen observation were harnessed to artistic acumen.
this is the only instance of his doing two versions of a painting. the first, the tate’s Oi Yoi Yoi, is titled after rose’s chant as she danced. it is more elaborate, including lavish reds and royal blue.