Rowland Frederick Hilder was an English marine and landscape artist and whilst he may not be as well known as Turner, he has still gained the reputation of being ‘the Turner of his generation’.
Hilder was born on 28 June 1905 in Greatneck, New York, where as a child he caught his first glimpse of pictures hanging on walls when his father took him to the mansions of the resident millionaires. When the First World War broke out in 1914, the family decided to sail back to England. A perceptive schoolmaster recognised that Hilder had a natural talent for drawing and set him on the road to Goldsmith’s College School of Art in London where he studied in the 1920s.
He decided early on that watercolour painting was what appealed to him most, however he could find no one to teach him so he taught himself, by studying the classic English masters. Hilder went on to become a distinguished painter of oils and watercolours, as well as illustrator for numerous books including Moby Dick, Treasure Island and Mary Webb’s Precious Bane.
However his favourite painting country was the rolling northern downland in Kent, from Shoreham eastwards towards Maidstone. He was also a great sailor and kept a coastguard’s cottage at Shell Ness, at the mouth of the river Swale, as his base for marine painting.
Hilder was the first to see the drama and picturesque beauty of the oast-houses in Kent with their white caps and surrounding orchards and he shares with John Constable the distinction of having seen an entire region of England identified with his name and art. The description ‘Rowland Hilder country’ attached primarily to the weald of Kent evokes a landscape as distinctive as ‘Constable’s country’ along the Suffolk Stour.
He died on 21 April 1993 in Greenwich, London and following his death the Royal Institute of Painters in Watercolours, for whom he had served as President from 1964 to 1974, honoured him by instituting an annual Rowland Hilder award in his memory.