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FOTAG Focus Articles

For a number of years the Natal Witness ran articles by FOTAG members. These articles called the FOTAG Focus discussed artworks from the collection on display.

Home > Articles > Fotag Focus > Twisting stream, Ivon Hitchens

Twisting stream

1960, oil on canvas 

Ivon Hitchens (1893 - 1979)

by Jeremy Grimsdell

Twisting stream, Ivon Hitchens

Can a picture be listened to? Surely not? And yet, if you look at Twisting Stream, it's easy to imagine a source of water rushing and tumbling over rocks.

Whether Ivon Hitchens (1893 - 1979) intended to produce an illusion of the sound of water is hard to say. But he certainly did try to create "visual songs" and over many years developed a personal language of painting in order to do this. That is why the painting is abstract, or partly so. It's his interpretation of a song about nature as he saw, felt and heard it. Yet at the same time you can make out the water and the rocks, so a delicate balance has been achieved between abstraction and realism.

This painting is on a rather long landscape format. Most of Hitchens' paintings are even more elongated than this one because he liked the possibilities for design that a wide view gave him. Like his early influence, Cezanne, he nearly always painted directly from nature, working in all weathers and using a great assortment of brushes to produce his sweeping effects. It was important to him to leave parts of the canvas white - as in Twisting Stream - since the white formed part of the composition.

I think what I respond to most in Twisting Stream is the feeling it gives me of a hidden, mysterious place; a sense of the processes of nature going on quite removed from human influence. The painting gives the impression of being a very spontaneous and free expression of these feelings which I find very appealing. At the same time I'm aware that Hitchens would have carefully considered the composition before launching forth with his array of brushes. It's interesting to note how subtle the colours (oils) are and how the white of the canvas shows these up.

I believe that Hitchens was one of the best English landscape painters - in the line of Constable and Turner - and the Tatham Gallery is fortunate to own a good example of his work.

More FOTAG Focus Articles


Johansson collectionThe Tatham Art Gallery holds an Art Collection that contains significant British and French artworks dating back to the 18th century. Its South-African art collection is focused on, but not exclusive to, the art of KwaZulu-Natal.


ImageThe Tatham Art Gallery hosts a range of Art Exhibitions. These include traveling and researched exhibitions as well as exhibitions initiated by the Gallery and compiled from the collection.


A selection of current and archival articles from the Tatham Art Gallery. These articles provide a historical and contemporary perspective on the Gallery and the visual arts in KwaZulu-Natal.

Art Gallery Shop

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