Hilder studied at Goldsmiths" College, in south London where he met botanical artist Edith Blenkiron (1903-1992).
Following the outbreak of World War 1 Rowlands English father decided in 1915 to return to his native county of Kent England to enlist in the army. As a student with little money he cycled into Kent and discovered the Shoreham Valley in the North Downs where he was delighted to sketch the same barn drawn by the visionary painter Samuel Palmer in the 1820s. This interest in the countryside began a lifelong passion for drawing landscapes in both pencil and watercolour initially of Kent "The Garden of England" and the Thames with its sailing vessels and old buildings.
In the 1930s he illustrated several books
In 1929 Hilder was commissioned by Shell Mex Limited to illustrate "Then and Now" a travel guide which started a long relationship with the company with posters sponsored by them. Demand was so great that Shell set up an office to deal with correspondence and 13 million plates were published.
He has been called "the Turner of his generation", and according to the Dictionary of National Biography "The description "Rowland Hilder country" (attached primarily to the weald of Kent) evokes a landscape as distinctive and personal as "Constable"s country" along the Suffolk Stour."
An army Camouflage Officer during the Second World War he then became a mainstay of the Ministry of Information. Hilder served as President of the Royal Institute of Painters in Watercolours from 1964 to 1974.
He was awarded the Officer of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire in 1986.