Important South African and International Art

Live Auction, 4 June 2018

Session Two; Contemporary South African Art

Sold for

ZAR 569 000
Lot 190
  • Robert Hodgins; Reaching for the Sun

Lot Estimate
ZAR 500 000 - 700 000
Selling Price
Incl. Buyer's Premium & VAT
ZAR 569 000

About this Item

South African 1920-2010
Reaching for the Sun
signed, dated 1991, inscribed with the medium and the title on the reverse
oil on canvas
91 by 121,5cm excluding frame


Pablo Picasso and Marcel Duchamp are considered to be the fathers of modern art: Picasso by obviating the representational tools of suggesting traditional perspective in his Cubist works, and Duchamp by deriding painting and ‘painterly intoxication’, declaring that everything could be art. Always driven to experiment with colour and with light, Hodgins aligned himself with Picasso, not Duchamp. Colour abounds in the present lot. Influenced by Bridget Riley and Francis Bacon, Hodgins, as a student who could only afford four tubes of the basic oil paints, was less interested in what Duchamp derisively called ‘artistic paintings’ – competent, inoffensive, suitable for a dining room wall – and more in depicting the variety and vagaries of the human condition, such as foolish optimism, as is evident in the present lot of a man wanting to catch the sun. The metaphorical sense of the expression aside, Hodgins was not averse to laying bare our futile ambitions.

What is of particular interest in this work, is the face, simultaneously capturing the features in full-frontal view (the broad, arrow-like smile and the two eyes) and from the side (the position of a nose on the left hand side of the face). He could have been thinking of Picasso’s faces with multiple views of the same face. Hodgins certainly used many more colours than the basic four from his student days. The man’s figure is equally compelling: one almost gets the sense that Hodgins references the odd perspective of a typical Egyptian figure on a temple wall, face in profile and body rendered in full-frontal view. Says Brenda Atkinson of this painting: ‘At his best, Hodgins manages, through the otherness of the painting, to evoke in the viewer unsettling recollections, recognitions, desires. Creating from the unconscious, he seems able to tap the unconscious in all its grasping mystery.’ 1

Brenda Atkinson (2002). Robert Hodgins, Cape Town: Tafelberg, page 13.

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