Important South African & International Art, Jewellery and Decorative Arts

Live Auction, 12 October 2015

Important South African and International Art, Evening Sale

Sold for

ZAR 1 591 520
Lot 559
  • Robert Hodgins; Clubmen of America: Academy Cadets

Lot Estimate
ZAR 600 000 - 800 000
Selling Price
Incl. Buyer's Premium & VAT
ZAR 1 591 520

About this Item

South African 1920-2010
Clubmen of America: Academy Cadets

signed, dated 2002 and inscribed with the title on the reverse

oil on canvas
90 by 120cm excluding frame


This painting is one of a body of work, produced between 2000 and 2002, each titled Clubmen of America and subtitled variously Wall Street, The Clan, Mafiosi, Good Ole Country Boys, Clubwomen and Football Players, amongst others. Hodgins was clearly fascinated by what draws people together into clubs. Though some enthusiasts are obviously motivated by common interests, clubs also foster inclusivity and exclusivity – a culture of ‘us’ and ‘them’. Others may have more sinister intent – regulation or control through externally imposed order or commonly accepted norms.

Clubmen of America: Academy Cadets presents a corps of military men marshalled into one unit as if any vestiges of individuality have been reduced to one mass of homogeneity. In fact, their bodies are less corporeal than the blood red academy in the background with its erect flag. Their faces, plunged into shadow by peaked caps, take on the tones of their uniforms as if their militarisation has seeped into their skin.

These academy cadets are pummelled into submission by the association to which they swear allegiance. Onto the chest of the central soldier is affixed a badge that reads ‘pledge’, referencing the pledge in which every American – and immigrant – swears allegiance to the flag and to the republic of the United States of America.

The “grim gash of an epaulette”,1 as Brenda Atkinson terms it, clearly has the power to control its wearer. She also notes that Hodgins was influenced by Bridget Riley and Francis Bacon, which is evident in his superb balance of control and expression, colour and pattern, rhythm and repetition. Ultimately, it is the artist’s handling of the formal elements of art to evoke his enduring interest in the avaricious workings and effects of power that make this work so superb.

1. Brenda Atkinson. (2002) ‘Old Loves, New Affairs’ in Robert Hodgins, Cape Town: Tafelberg Publishers. Page 12.


Brenda Atkinson et al. (2002) Robert Hodgins, Cape Town: Tafelberg Publishers. Illustrated in colour on page 111.

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