Live Virtual Auction, 11 - 12 October 2021
About this Item
The nude was a recurring subject for Robert Hodgins, appearing in his work from his time as a student in post-war London until his death in Johannesburg in 2010. When he first began exhibiting in South Africa, in the late 1950s, he frequently showed nudes. Writing in the artist’s 2002 monograph, Rayda Becker points out: “When he returned to painting [in the 1980s], he abandoned the generic art-school nudes, and moved from simply imagining the beautiful towards arousing unease, and into the violent and distorted imagery with which we are familiar today.”1 The existential unease Becker refers to was both existential and formal. In his later years, it was modulated by the artist’s intense colour palette and frequent use of humour. Produced two years before his death, this lot abstractedly evokes as much as describes four figures on a beach of chiefly mustard and orange colours. All the figures are without clothes, a state of being Hodgins complicates in his title by pointing to the English language distinction between the naked and the nude. It is a point of difference Hodgins would have picked up from English art historian Kenneth Clark. “To be naked is to be deprived of our clothes, and the word implies some of the embarrassment most of us feel in that condition,” wrote Clark in 1956. The word “nude,” by distinction, has an acculturated meaning and refers not to “a huddled and defenseless body”, but rather to “a balanced, prosperous, and confident body: the body re-formed”.2 Ever alert to his patriarchal and homophobic context, Hodgins knew – and here pictures – the distinction between female nudity and male nakedness, the former a point of titillation, the latter an embarrassment verging on pathology.
- Rayda Becker (2002) “Made in Africa?” in Robert Hodgins, Cape Town, Tafelberg, page 39.
- Kenneth Clark (1956) The Nude: A Study in Ideal Form, New York, Pantheon Books, 1956, page 3.
Goodman Gallery, Cape Town.