Picture of the Week; Vizeu, Portugal (1947). by Tristram Hillier (1905-1983) Wolverhampton Art Gallery

The Birmingham Post (England), May 6, 2000 | Go to article overview

Picture of the Week; Vizeu, Portugal (1947). by Tristram Hillier (1905-1983) Wolverhampton Art Gallery


Born in China and educated at Cambridge and the Slade School under Henry Tonks, Tristram Hillier was a British landscape painter with a fondness for the brilliant light and colour of the Mediterranean. Influenced by surrealism, his paintings have the hyper-real stillness of a dream, with a sense of tension and potential menace hiding round the corners of his deserted squares.

This example was bought in 1984 at a time when Wolverhampton Art Gallery was developing its collection of British surrealism. During the 1930s Hillier had lived in France and Spain but by the time he came to paint this he had settled in Somerset, making regular expeditions to Spain and Portugal.

Towards the end of his life Hillier left a detailed account of his fastidious working method, which he described as 'a laborious and expensive process which is unlikely to enlist many disciples'.

Each canvas took six months to prepare, with sandpapering between successive coats of primer and preparatory coats of titanium white which were left to dry for months.

'The sky is the most rapidly executed passage in any of my pictures,' he wrote. 'Even on a large canvas it takes me no more than about three hours, and I have always found it a mistake to attempt any subsequent alteration.

'The remainder of my painting is done almost entirely with sable and this has led people to complain that there is so little indication in my work of the brush stroke. Well, they can't have it both ways. There is not much brushwork to be seen in Van Eyck's portrait of the Arnolfini.'

Vizeu, Portugal is on display at the exhibition In Your Dreams at Wolverhampton Art Gallery until June 3.

Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery 0121 303 2834: Victorian Watercolours. Highlights from the museum's extensive collections, including later work by Cox, Ruskin, Holman Hunt and Burne Jones. Until May 31; Connecting Threads. Ambitious survey of textiles and costumes from the museum's collections, spanning different centuries and cultures. Until June 25 (also incorporating displays at Soho House, Aston Hall, Sarehole Mill and Museum of the Jewellery Quarter until Sep 17).

Ikon Gallery, Brindleyplace 0121 248 0708: Lyndal Jones: demonstrations and details from the facts of life. Multi-media installation on the theme of sexual attraction; Simryn Gill. Playful objects made from discarded household items by Sydney-based Malaysian artist. Until May 29 (Tue-Sun 11am-6pm).

Royal Birmingham Society of Artists, Dakota House, 4 Brook St, St Paul's Square 0121 236 4353: Robert Perry: Drawings and Paintings of the Somme Battlefields, Winter 2000. From Mon until May 20 (Mon-Wed, Fri 10.30am-5.30pm, Thu 10.30am-8pm, Sat 10.30am-5pm).

Mac, Cannon Hill Park 0121 440 3838: Mac Students' Show. …

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