Ivon Hitchens: Five

In his commentary on this passage, Italo Calvino is fascinated by an apparent paradox. In order to extol the virtues of ‘ vagueness’ and of the ineffably indefinite, Leopardi must pay ‘an exact and meticulous attention to the composition of each image, to the minute definition of details, to the choice of objects, to the light and atmosphere, all in order to attain the desired degree of vagueness... the search for the indefinite becomes the observation of all that is multiple, teeming, composed of countless particles.’ For Hitchens, as we have seen, as for Leopardi (and Cézanne) this search for the ‘indefinite’ is a means to the apprehension of the ever – present infinite. Calvino thus concludes, in terms that might be exactly descriptive of ‘the aesthetic truth’ of which Hitchens wrote, and which he sought with unwavering and sophisticated dedication: ‘The poet of vagueness can only be the poet of exactitude, who is able to grasp the subtlest sensations with eyes and ears and quick, unerring hands.’

Mel Gooding

London, April 2012



In all quotations italicised emphases are as in the original.

Ivon Hitchens is quoted from Answers to Questions’ in the catalogue to Objective Abstractions, an exhibition at the Zwemmer Gallery in London in 1933; from ‘Notes on P ainting’ published in Ark, a magazine published by the Royal College of Art, in 1956, but mostly composed some ten years earlier; and from a letter to Alan Bowness, 26 January, 1956. All quotations appear in Ivon Hitchens by Peter Khoroche (André Deutch, London, 1990).

Heron’s description of Hitchens’s objects and effects as ‘existing in paint’ is from his Ivon Hitchens (Penguin Modern Painters, 1955).

Cézanne’s letter to Paul is dated September 8 th 1906. The term ‘passage’, in reference to Cézanne refers to his characteristic placing of strokes of colour/tone laid parallel to each other or overlapping slightly, and parallel to the picture surface, which combine to create the visual sensation of objects in recessive space or atmosphere, without recourse to traditional perspective.

Gaston Bachelard is quoted from The Poetics of Space, trans. Maria Jolas (Beacon Hill Press, Boston, 1969).

Leopardi is quoted from Italo Calvino’s Six Memos for the Next Millennium, trans. Patrick Creagh (Jonathon Cape, London, 1992).