Francis Hill – ‘Bless ‘em All’ (Recollection of a Convent in Belgium)

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Oil on canvas, signed ‘Francis Hill’ (lower right). A printed label on the back reads: ‘BLESS ‘EM ALL’ (Recollection of a Convent in Belgium) Francis Hill ‘Three Roses’ 38 Brockswood Lane, Welwyn Garden City, Herts AL8 7BG. Exhibited: Royal Academy, London. 1982, No. 1034.

Canvas: 20 x 24 1/4 in. (51 x 61 cm.)
Frame: 24 1/4 x 28 in. (61.5 x 71 cm.)

This painting is a record of an event Francis Hill experienced whilst serving in the army during the Second World War.


Hill, Francis (1917-1984/-?)

Francis Hill was born between October and December 1917 at Barnsley, Yorkshire West Riding. He stopped exhibiting at the RA in 1984. At school near Barnsley, Francis Hill was more interested in sport than academic achievement. He left at fifteen and worked in the local glass works until he was able to realize his ambition to become a constable in the West Riding police force. After the Second World War he joined Leeds City Police and was Detective Chief Inspector when he retired in 1966. After some time as chief security officer in a bank, he was appointed Head of Security at the National Gallery, London. Watching the restorers, students, and copyists at work in the galleries, Francis felt that he, too, could paint. He mentioned this to his wife, and at Christmas 1974 she presented him with a very large parcel containing oil paints, brushes, canvasses, an easel, a book on oil painting and a note which said, ‘Now get on with it’. Francis wanted to record in paint some of the interesting events in his life and began by recollecting various incidents from his years in the police force and the army as well as domestic life. He found his early police training in observation very useful when he started to paint. He usually works from a sketch, transferring this to canvas when he has achieved the correct composition. In 1975 he entered his pictures in a staff exhibition at the National Gallery and was greatly encouraged by the enthusiastic response he received. Each year from 1976-1984 he has had paintings accepted at the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition, although they have not always been hung. Francis Hill retired from the National Gallery in 1982: ‘I am now a compulsive painter, trying to make up for time I lost before I realized I could paint.’ A World of Their Own, Twentieth Century British Naïve Painters by Jill and Martin Leman; Published by Pelham Books Ltd, 1985.