John Mcewen com­ments on Danc­ing Woman

Country Life Every Week - - My Favourite Painting Grey Gowrie -

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.

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