Tristram Paul Hillier (1905 - 1983)

The Seven Sacraments: Baptism, Penance, Eucharist, Confirmation, Marriage, Ordination and Extreme Unction Sold

Seven drawings: each pencil or pencil and coloured pencil.
Each (except Extreme Unction) signed Hillier at the lower right, lower left or upper left, and each titled and inscribed in the margins.
Each approximately 179 x 158 mm. (7 x 6 1/8 in.)

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This series of drawings representing the seven sacraments of the Catholic faith were drawn between 1956 and 1957, and were used to illustrate a book entitled The Mass and Redemption in Pictures, published in 1958. As was noted of these drawings when they were exhibited in the 1983-1984 Hillier exhibition, ‘This unusual and unique sequence of seven drawings representing the position of hands in the Seven Sacraments of the Catholic Church were drawn before the Second Vatican Council made changes in the manner of the administering of the Sacrament. They were produced for an edition of the Bible published by his friend George Rainbird. Papal approval was sought and gained for this in the course of a journey to Rome with both George Rainbird and his friend and advisor Fr Philip Caraman, S.J..’ In her review of the exhibition, Frances Spalding singled out these seven drawings, ‘which mesmerize with their combination of accuracy and sensitivity.’

Jenny Pery, in her recent monograph on Hillier, describes the origins of this series of drawings in more detail: ‘Hillier’s delicate drawings, full of spirituality, made to illustrate the Seven Sacraments (1956-57) are all of hands engaged in the sacramental rites. The hand representing Baptism holds a jug, Confirmation is portrayed as an outstretched hand, Penance is a single upright hand, Eucharist a pair of hands holding a chalice, Extreme Unction a downward-pointing hand surrounded by an eye, ear, nose and mouth, Ordination a pair of hands knotted together and Marriage links two hands with a ring. Some of these were studies of the hands of Christopher Leyne, then art master at Downside, who in 1956 had suggested that his promising pupil Rob Stuart should take private lessons from Hillier. As Leyne wrote to Stuart: ‘Tristram, who has been up in the Attic quite a lot doing some drawings of my hands to help illustrate the Seven Sacraments, is very keen on the student having only one master.’ Hillier’s only pupil, Stuart was initially sent from Downside for weekly tutorials in Hillier’s studio, later confessing that these lessons terrified him. He did not become a ‘follower’, eventually abandoning painting in favour of picture dealing while remaining a friend and confidant. The exalted, prayerful quality of the Seven Sacraments drawings can hardly be missed. Perhaps they were an impossible act for a student to follow.’

These seven drawings were exhibited in the exhibition A Timeless Journey: Tristram Hillier R.A. at the Cartwright Hall, Bradford, and elsewhere, between 1983 and 1984.

Provenance:
The Revd. O. I. Waring, and by descent in the family of the artist until 2010.

Literature:
Ina Oppenheimer, ed., The Mass and Redemption in Pictures, London, 1958, illustrated pp.403-411; Frances Spalding, ‘London: Tristram Hillier at the Royal Academy’, The Burlington Magazine, August 1983, p.510, fig.74 (Extreme Unction); Jenny Pery, Painter Pilgrim: The Art and Life of Tristram Hillier, London, 2008, pp.125-127, figs.104.1-104.7.

Tristram Paul HILLIER

The Seven Sacraments: Baptism, Penance, Eucharist, Confirmation, Marriage, Ordination and Extreme Unction

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