Foliage by Water No. 8 is a wonderful example of the distillation of vision that the artist had come to in his maturity. The paint work weaves its way in an incandescent ethereal luminosity into a territory neither ether, nor sky, nor lake, but an equilibrium of nature.
Hitchens had shown some interest in modernism and abstraction in the mid-1930s, but had moved back towards an art that was firmly based in the real world after his house in Swiss Cottage was bombed in 1940 and he moved away from London to a patch of woodland near Petworth, West Sussex, where he worked for the next 40 years. He painted mostly outdoors and his constant exposure to a specific landscape gave rise to several series of paintings in which he investigated the ever-changing nature of a landscape throughout the year and in widely varying conditions. The familiar long thin horizontal format, which in this painting is unusually monumental, forces the viewer to 'read' the surface of the painting and thus Hitchens can lead us through the lush vegetation almost as if we were there. Foliage by Water No. 8 uses, like many of Hitchens' paintings, the reflections of sky, water and foliage to initially confuse the viewer, but then allows him to build up the image with its wealth of views and vistas.