Tristram Hillier R.A. (British, 1905-1983) The Lighthouse 50.2 x 65.4 cm. (19 3/4 x 25 3/4 in.)

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Lot 22AR
Tristram Hillier R.A.
(British, 1905-1983)
The Lighthouse 50.2 x 65.4 cm. (19 3/4 x 25 3/4 in.)

Sold for £ 106,250 (US$ 131,285) inc. premium
Tristram Hillier R.A. (British, 1905-1983)
The Lighthouse
signed 'Hillier' (lower right); titled and dated 'THE LIGHTHOUSE 1939' (on the stretcher)
oil on canvas
50.2 x 65.4 cm. (19 3/4 x 25 3/4 in.)

Footnotes

  • Provenance
    With Arthur Tooth & Sons, London, where purchased by the family of the present owner
    Private Collection, U.K.

    Exhibited
    Bradford, Art Galleries and Museums, A Timeless Journey, June-September 1983, cat.no.19

    Literature
    Jenny Pery, Painter Pilgrim, The Art and Life of Tristram Hillier, Royal Academy of Arts, London, 2008, p.67, pl.52 (col.ill.)

    Along with Edward Burra, Tristram Hillier at the age of twenty-eight was the youngest member of the forward thinking Unit One group, formed in 1933 with Paul Nash at the helm and intent on promoting the very latest in contemporary art, architecture and design. With the influence of the Bloomsbury group fading, abstraction and surrealism were breathing new life into the British art scene and Unit One comprised some of the most promising talent of the era including Henry Moore, Barbara Hepworth and Ben Nicholson. In Nash's own words, the group embraced the concept of artistic unity – Unit – with that of individuality – One. Unit One also nurtured the fruitful relationship between Tristram Hillier and Edward Wadsworth who both shared an apprenticeship at the Slade under Henry Tonks, the latter acting as something of a mentor to his younger counterpart.

    Sixteen years Hillier's senior, Wadsworth was one of the most well respected artists of the day and a pioneer of Vorticism whose endorsement of Unit One gave significant weight to the group. Wadsworth, who regularly used and encouraged Hillier to work in the medium of tempera, had been creating images of heavily lit objects, carefully assembled outside of their immediate environment, which combined to produce an effective surrealist formula. Hillier had moved to France by the later 1930s and Wadsworth frequently stayed with the family, embarking on several joint drawing expeditions around the Normandy coast and impressing themselves on one another. Hillier acknowledged the impact of Wadsworth at this time, stating that 'It was not, I think, until about 1935 that I began to discover what I personally wanted, and in that period I painted many seascapes, harbour scenes and the like, rather under the influence of Wadsworth' (Jenny Pery, Painter Pilgrim, The Art and Life of Tristram Hillier, Royal Academy of Arts, London, 2008, p.66).

    The Lighthouse (1939) was painted around the outbreak of World War II and along with other works of the time such as The Beach at Yport (Private Collection) and Fishing Craft at Etretat (National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa) is a product of Hillier's time with Wadsworth. In terms of composition, strong similarities can be drawn with works by Wadsworth such as The Jetty, Fécamp (Beaverbrook Art Gallery, New Brunswick), painted the same year and incorporating a similar concept of perspective down the jetty to a lighthouse. The meticulously arranged foreground acts as a stage for Hillier's assortment of props, which when brought together as one create the desired surrealist atmosphere. This is further enhanced by the use of text with 'Défense de pénetrer' (No entry) clearly visible and the modulation of colour in oil paint through which he could achieve the required precision.

    It was Wadsworth who introduced Hillier to his dealers Arthur Tooth & Sons, where the latter would go on to sell his paintings throughout the war and from whom The Lighthouse was originally purchased. On 16th November 2011 Bonhams set a new International auction record for a work by Tristram Hillier with Objects on a Beach, No.2 (1937) selling for £56,450.
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