The clarity and meticulous detail of Tristram Hillier's painting evokes a surreal, slightly mysterious air. Arranged in a triangular composition on a wooden table top, ammonites, coral and other types of fossils are shown placed on geological books and a wooden box. The composition is set against an undetermined black background with a strong light source illuminating the scene from the left. Light casts distinct shadows amid the curiously-shaped forms. Bathed in this unnatural, almost theatrical, light it is as if the objects are under close scientific scrutiny.
'Fossils (February)' was commissioned by the Shell Advertising Art Collection in 1955 for publication in the 'Shell Book of Nature, Fossils, Insects and Reptiles'. After the Second World War the company commissioned work from some of the best known British artists of the twentieth century for its Shell county guides, calendars and school wall charts.
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