Online-Only Auction, 22 - 29 November 2021

Strauss & Co is pleased to present the guest curator for our November Online Auction, artist Sam Nhlengethwa.

Born in the mining community of Payneville, Springs, south-east of Johannesburg and after studying at the Rorke’s Drift Art Centre in the late 1970s, attended the Johannesburg Art Foundation, established by Bill Ainslie. He taught part-time at FUBA (Federated Union of Black Artists) in Johannesburg and came to national prominence in 1993 with the exhibition Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow, which was put on at the Market Gallery in Johannesburg and the KZNSA Gallery in Durban. Nhlengethwa received the Standard Bank Young Artist Award in 1994 and his award show Homage to Jazz travelled the country over the following year.

Nhlengethwa is best known for his figurative paintings and collage works exploring themes of social and art history, jazz, mining and domestic life, as well as his iconic Goat lithographs and the series of Tributes to other artists printed at The Artists’ Press in White River. His current figurative style post-dates a series of large, bold abstract works following his participation in the Thupelo workshops, founded in 1985 by artists David Koloane and Bill Ainslie. The annual, two-week workshop programme is associated with a flourishing of modernist abstraction among urban black artists.

Nhlengethwa’s work was included in the important exhibition Seven Stories about Modern Art in Africa at the Whitechapel Gallery in London in 1995, the 12th International Cairo Biennale in 2010, and (Re)constructions: Contemporary Art from South Africa in Rio de Janeiro in 2011. The artist was a founding member, with Pat Mautloa and David Koloane, of the Bag Factory Artists’ Studios in Newtown in 1991.

Sold for

R 351 750
Lot 284
Robert Hodgins; Three Nudes and a Naked Man
  • Robert Hodgins; Three Nudes and a Naked Man
  • Robert Hodgins; Three Nudes and a Naked Man
  • Robert Hodgins; Three Nudes and a Naked Man
  • Robert Hodgins; Three Nudes and a Naked Man

Lot Estimate
R 350 000 - 450 000
Selling Price
Incl. Buyer's Premium and VAT
R 351 750
Cape Town

About this Item

South African 1920-2010
Three Nudes and a Naked Man
signed, dated 2007/8 and inscribed with the artist's name, the title and the medium on the reverse
oil on canvas
90 by 90cm excluding frame; 92,5 by 92,5 by 5cm including frame


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.


  1. Rayda Becker (2002) “Made in Africa?” in Robert Hodgins, Cape Town, Tafelberg, page 39.
  2. Kenneth Clark (1956) The Nude: A Study in Ideal Form, New York, Pantheon Books, 1956, page 3.


Goodman Gallery, Cape Town.

Private Collection.

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