Live Virtual Auction, 10 - 11 May 2020

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Sold for

ZAR 136 560
Lot 615
  • Robert Hodgins; The Witch in her Domain
  • Robert Hodgins; The Witch in her Domain
  • Robert Hodgins; The Witch in her Domain
  • Robert Hodgins; The Witch in her Domain

Lot Estimate
ZAR 120 000 - 160 000
Selling Price
Incl. Buyer's Premium and VAT
ZAR 136 560

About this Item

South African 1920-2010
The Witch in her Domain
signed, dated 1995/7 and inscribed with the title and 'For Graham Flax on his 21st birthday' on the reverse
oil on canvas
41 by 51cm excluding frame; 43,5 by 54 by 5,5cm including frame


This spare composition by Robert Hodgins typifies his economy of means as a painter. A barely human figure with aquiline nose, button-like blue eye and burnished-wood complexion is depicted in profile in a bland interior setting with a window ajar. The artist’s approximation of a cat takes fright at the anthropomorphic shadow cast by the painting’s imposing central figure in a pink dress. The air of domestic disquiet is complicated by the presence of a noose, which Hodgins emphatically delineates against an undifferentiated slab of red. What do all these elements together amount to? Hodgins rarely painted with binding intent. His distinctive characters – pinstriped executives, decorated generals, punch-drunk boxers, cloistered wives – would often emerge from a smudge of marks and colours. Hodgins’s associative way of arriving at a figure was informed by his love for Philip Guston, whose cartoonish style, formal restraint and gallows humour he much admired.1 It was also guided by his enduring sense that “history is lived near the bone. It’s not something that happens outside your studio.”2 Hodgins frequently depicted hangmen and gallows from 1985 onwards. This lot was started in the year capital punishment was abolished in South Africa. It was gifted to collector Graham Flax, a friend of the artist, around the time of Flax’s fiftieth birthday. In 2013 a transgender woman murdered Flax in Sea Point.


  1. Kathryn Smith (2012) ‘Some General Rules: Robert Hodgins in Conversation with Kathryn Smith’, in A Lasting Impression: The Robert Hodgins Print Archive, Johannesburg, Wits University Press, page 117
  2. Ivor Powell (1984) ‘One of my own fragments: An interview with Robert Hodgins’ De Arte, No. 31, September, page 37.

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