Hillier was born in Beijing and studied at Christ’s College, Cambridge, and later at the Slade School of Fine Art. There then followed a period of travel around Europe mostly on his own, but occasionally accompanied by Edward Wadsworth. During his travels he studied briefly in Paris, becoming acquainted with the work of the surrealists – Braque, Max Ernst and Andre Masson. Hillier was a member of Unit One. His work was characterised by empty land- and townscapes, flooded with sharp noon day light relieved only by the casting of shadows.