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Tristram Hillier’s painting, ‘Fossils (February)’

Tristram Hillier’s painting, ‘Fossils (February)’ features in ‘Landscapes of the Mind: the Art of Tristram Hillier’ at The Museum of Somerset, Taunton from 6 November 2019 – 18 April 2020

Fossils and book on a table

Tristram Hillier, Fossils (February), oil painting © Estate of the Artist / image: Crown Copyright

About this painting

Fossils, stones, and other organic matter are arranged with books and a burn-out match on a table, in this still life painting produced in February 1955. The work was commissioned by the Shell Advertising Art Collection, and was published in the ‘Shell Book of Nature, Fossils, Insects and Reptiles’. Shell commissioned work from some of the best-known British artists of the 20th century for inclusion in Shell county guides, calendars and school wall charts.

Who was Tristram Hillier?

Tristram Hillier was born in Peking, China. He attended Christ’s College, Cambridge, before studying at the Slade School of Art and the Westminster School of Art in London. Throughout his life he travelled in Europe, living for periods in France and Italy. In the 1930s he was a member of the Unit One group of artists, along with Paul Nash and Edward Wadsworth, whose work had a great influence on him. By the mid-1930s, Hillier had established a distinctive style to which he remained faithful for most of his life. He painted with great sharpness of definition and smoothness of finish, creating scenes of stillness and calm that evoke an air of strangeness and other-worldliness through the juxtaposition of incongruous objects and the use of unreal perspectives. One of the earliest examples in which he showed this personal voice is ‘La Route des Alpes of 1937’, now in Tate, London. In 1954 he published his autobiography entitled, Leda and the Goose.

Visitor Information

The Museum of Somerset
Taunton Castle
Castle Green
Taunton TA1 4AA

Until 20 April 2020

Telephone: +44 (0)1823 255088
Website: swheritage.org.uk/museum-of-somerset/