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 Roger (Hildesheim) Hilton  (1911 - 1975)

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Lived/Active: England      Known for: abstract landscape and figurative painting

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Ad Code: 2
AskART Artist
from Auction House Records.
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This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Please note: Artists not classified as American in our database may have limited biographical data compared to the extensive information about American artists.

Roger Hilton CBE (1911 – 1975) was a pioneer of abstract* art in post-war Britain.  He was born in 1911 in the Middlesex section of London with the name Roger Hildesheim, but the family surname was changed in 1916 because of anti-German sentiment from the War.  He studied at the Slade School of Fine Art*, London under Henry Tonks from 1929 to 1931, and then went to Paris, where he developed links with painters on the Continent and studied at the Academie Ransom with painter Roger Bassiere.

In World War II he served in the Army, part of the time as a Commando, and was a prisoner until the end of the war after the Dieppe raid of 1942.  It was an experience that attuned him to the dark side of human nature.  He worked as a schoolteacher for a time after the war, taught at Central School of Arts and Crafts*, 1954-56, and experimented with Neo Plasticism*, abstraction as exemplified by Piet Mondrian. Later he added figurative elements to his work, committed to human presence. He also began to do much drawing in charcoal into and over his paint, which "heightened the expressive energetic and improvisatory quality of his work. . . Using distortion and expressive line he intimately suggests how a body might feel when it is caressed."  (Button, 52)

During the 1950s and 1960s Hilton began to spend more time in west Cornwall, moving there permanently in 1965, having first visited in 1956.  In the same year, he married Rose Phipps, 20 years his junior, having divorced his first wife, Ruth David.  Settling at Botallack Moor, he became a prominent member of the St. Ives Colony*. 

He won the 1963 John Moores Painting Prize, and in 1964 he received the UNESCO prize at the Venice Biennale*.  He was appointed Commander of the British Empire in 1968.  By 1974 he was confined to bed as an invalid precipitated in part by alcoholism.  His work became less abstract in his later years, often being based on the nude or images of animals.

He died at Botallack, not far from St Ives, in 1975.

Virginia Button, St. Ives Artists, A Companion, p. 52

* For more in-depth information about these terms and others, see Glossary

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