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A key member of the St Ives art colony in Cornwall and the last major painter to settle there. He was born in Northwood, Middlesex and Studied at the Slade School of Fine Art, 1929-31, under Henry Tonks; although he won a Slade Scholarship in 1931 he did not take it up, but during the 1930s studied for periods in Paris, part of the time with Roger Bissière at Académie Ranson. His first one-man show was at Bloomsbury Gallery in 1936.
During World War II he served in the Army, and became a prisoner of war after the Dieppe raid of 1942. He also was a schoolteacher for a time after the war, as well as teaching at Central School of Arts and Crafts, 1954-6.
His first abstract paintings date from 1950. During the 1950s and 1960s Hilton began to spend more time in West Cornwall, and the landscape there influenced his pictures, which were never to be as entirely abstract again as those of the early 1950s.
Hilton took part in numerous group shows in Britain and abroad, winning first prize at the John Moores Liverpool exhibition in 1963. The retrospective exhibition at ICA in 1958, and similarly important shows included the Serpentine Gallery in 1974; Graves Art Gallery, and touring, in Sheffield 1980; Leicester Polytechnic Gallery and tour, 1984-5; Hayward Gallery, 1993-4; Tate Gallery St Ives, 1997-8; and Jonathan Clark, 2000; and Belgrave Gallery St Ives, 2001.
In 2003 Cross Street Gallery, with Jonathan Clark, showed drawings from the Estate. Tate St Ives would hold an exhibition of drawings and paintings in 2006-7 that further surveyed the artist’s career.
Alcoholism hindered Hilton’s output; and was confined to bed by illness (he suffered peripheral neuritis) from 1972. Roger Hilton died at Botallack in Cornwall in 1975.