“Words about painting are inevitably about the inessential. The only people who say anything vital on the subject are painters (if they are articulate) and they are better employed painting”, says Peter Khoroche in his introduction, attributing the sentiment to Hitchens himself.
So, you could say, that’s me told then. The role of the critic, however, is to articulate their own insights which, if they’re any good, will be interesting and illuminating. Some artists, it’s true, are very good at explaining themselves (sometimes even to the extent of being better at it than painting). I’d say, for example, that the Kurt Jackson volume that’s included in this batch of reviews is one of the best I’ve seen. Some are positively taciturn and feel no incentive to explain at all. I suspect it’s part of the same phenomenon that makes poets often terrible readers of poetry including/especially their own.
However, we’re not concerned here with the psychology of art, so I’m going to duck out now and get round to the matter of the book in front of me.
Peter Khoroche also says it’s intended as a form of retrospective exhibition and it’s certainly generously illustrated. Some of the plates are perhaps rather small, but that’s inevitable with wide-format landscapes, even in a large-format book. Pretty well everything is reproduced as large as the pages will allow. The arrangement is chronological, which permits a steady narrative of Hitchens’ development as an artist along with straightforward biography. It is interesting to see how Hitchens’ style, which was never truly representative, develops and loosens, and how colours become bolder and stronger.
As a monument to one of the great landscape artists of the twentieth century, you couldn’t ask for more, and the additional apparatus which includes a chronology and list of exhibitions as well as public collections and a bibliography is a fine buttress to a substantial structure.
Click the picture to view on Amazon