Live Auction, 12 November 2018
About this Item
In 1954, Robert Hodgins took up a lectureship at the Pretoria Technical College (now Tshwane University of Technology). Post-war South Africa was, initially at least, ‘like heaven’ for Hodgins, who had experienced wartime austerity in London. His work from this period comprised mainly idealised male and female nudes. An admirer of the Italian Quattrocento artists, his early paintings, notes art historian Elizabeth Rankin, looked to ‘the certainty of past art’.1 In 1958, Hodgins took a leave of absence to paint and experimented with techniques like sandpapering. That same year artist Ernst de Jong returned to Pretoria from studies at the University of Oklahoma. His enthusiasm for Pollock and Abstract Expressionism rubbed off on Hodgins, whose work immediately headed off in a new direction. He experimented with paint, for instance pouring buckets of Duco onto flat surfaces, and incorporated gold leaf, nails and wire into his oil-based compositions. These new works, of which the present lot, from 1960, is characteristic, were ‘harsher in form and colour than his sensuous nudes and explored oil paint in its own right, squeezing it out of the tubes to make lines of the surface’.2 As is evident in his use of a mask in this composition, Hodgins did not entirely shun figuration in his expressive assemblage pieces. This beautifully restored lot is a striking example of Hodgins embracing uncertainty and charting new directions during his felicitous early Pretoria years.
1 Elizabeth Rankin (1986). ‘Biographical Notes Based on Reminiscences of the Artist,’ in Robert Hodgins: Images 1953–1986, Johannesburg: Standard Bank, no page number.
2 Ibid., no page number.