Robert Hodgins, who held his first solo exhibition at the Lidchi Gallery in Johannesburg in 1956, is most often thought of as a contemporary artist because of his late-blooming career and long life – he died at age 89. Whether he is better understood as a late modern or early contemporary is not a debate that would have energised this spirited artist. “I rejoice in being a painter,” Hodgins wrote in 2003. “There is nothing ultimately so life enhancing.”1 Best known for his scathing figural studies of powerful men in pinstripe suits and military garb, Hodgins also explored pleasure and frailty in genre portraits of nudes and bathers. There is a direct correlation between Three Bathers (1955) and this lot. In the same breath, using the overwhelmingly pink tones and these soft figures, plus the title, are all testament to Robert’s intention to comment on, and endorse, the well-known SA saying “you strike a woman, you strike a rock".
While Hodgins was later dismissive of his early work, describing it as too “heavily impressed” by French expressionist Georges Rouault, the well-defined figural arrangements and pensive mood of this lot hark back to his earlier work. 2 But the Hodgins that gripped the public imagination used colour not line to evoke form. This lot is exemplary. It is also typical of his later predisposition for arranging pairs and trios of cumulous figures in barely described indoor and outdoor settings.
Brenda Atkinson et al. (2002) Robert Hodgins, Cape Town: Tafelberg. Illustrated in colour on page 61, with the title Stones in a Field.