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Exhibition at Newlyn Art Gallery Celebrates the Centenary of the Birth of Roger Hilton
Gouache, 1974 (Antibes: landscape with dancing woman), gouache, charcoal and pencil on paper, 20 x 25.5 in.

CORNWALL.- Newlyn Art Gallery presents an exhibition celebrating the centenary of the birth of Roger Hilton (1911-1975). It is a personal selection by his widow Rose Hilton, chosen from private collections across Britain. The exhibition includes oil paintings, late gouaches and drawings, as well as previously unseen sketch books, photographs, letters and a 1974 sound recording of Hilton.

The focus is on Hilton’s work from the late 1950s, when he began to spend significant amounts of time in Cornwall. He first took a studio in St Ives, then one overlooking Newlyn harbour for three summers, before settling permanently in Botallack, near St Just, in 1965.

He was a regular exhibitor at Newlyn Art Gallery and lived there for a while with the curator Michael Canney and his wife Madelaine.

The show, with its accompanying talks, offers an insight into Hilton the man, his work and his personal connection to the gallery and Cornwall.

This is a significant retrospective exhibition featuring the work of an artist whose influence on painting and painters is felt to this day and we expect visitor numbers to the exhibition to be exceptionally high.

Roger Hilton (23rd March 1911 - 23rd Feb 1975) was one of the pre-eminent English artists of the 20th century. He studied at the Slade School of Fine Art from 1929 to 1931 and subsequently in Paris where he developed strong links with European artists. During World War II he served with the commandos (1940–42), was captured during the raid on Dieppe and spent three years as a prisoner of war.

From 1950-52 Hilton turned from his early figurative painting to a form of abstraction. Around 1956 Hilton began to be compared with the Abstract Expressionists. In many of the paintings from this period Hilton's initial inspiration was derived from the rhythms and colours of the natural world and this has generally been interpreted as a mark of his association with the St Ives artists.

By the late 1950s Hilton was speaking of his wish to ‘reinvent figuration'. The imagery that had consistently featured in his drawing-books emerged sporadically in his works of the 1960s, and finally in the works on paper that Hilton began to produce in 1970, when he was bedridden with a muscular disease. Hilton returned to the childlike subjects that had characterised his early work: animals, boats, a horse and cart and nudes. Dreams of sensual pleasure co-exist with worries concerning impotence, ill-health and approaching death. Memory, observation and the simple joy of making marks constitute a complex variety of impulses behind these late works, in which Hilton retrieved a childlike freshness of vision, but one marked by a lifetime's experience.

2011 will also be the centenary of the death of John Passmore Edwards, the Cornish born philanthropist, whose generosity built Newlyn Art Gallery - opened in 1895 - for the benefit of the local community. Running concurrent to the Hilton exhibition, the display in The Studio will highlight the many changes to the building over the past 116 years and its pivotal role in the artistic community.

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