Robert Griffiths Hodgins

(1920 – 2010)

“For me, it is very simple. The act of painting at a particular moment is able, for reasons I neither understand, nor even try to understand, to open up the whole world of my experience, my thinking, my aspirations.” Robert Hodgins

London-born Robert Hodgins is a late bloomer. After immigrating to South Africa in the 1950s, a brief flurry of artistic activity was followed by a lengthy career as an art educator and occasional critic – notably, he took over Esme Berman’s role as critic at Newscheckmagazine. After retiring from the Fine Art department at Wits University in the 1980s, he re-established himself as a painter, holding a mid-career survey show in Grahamstown, in 1986. Since then Hodgins has consistently presented new work on successive solo outings, chiefly in Johannesburg. Now firmly established as one South Africa’s leading painters, a British dealer has in recent years introduced Hodgins to London audiences.

The artist’s influence in Johannesburg artistic circles is pronounced, Hodgins having previously collaborated with Deborah Bell and William Kentridge, notably in print and film. Aspects of his prodigious and versatile production, which includes works on canvas, ceramic and paper, are detailed in two recent monographs, Robert Hodgins(2002), edited by Brenda Atkinson, and The Ceramic Art of Robert Hodgins(2008), edited by long-time ceramic collaborator, Retief van Wyk. A new book surveying his print output is due out shortly, edited by artist Hentie van der Merwe.

A prolific artist centrally preoccupied with figuration, Hodgins’ work is distinguished by his expressive use of colour, abbreviated sense of composition, essentially modernist approach to human form, tentative engagement with abstraction, and often satirical tone. His laconic brushwork and overall deftness of expression, particularly in creating human figures, has resulted in Hodgins being described as a painter of “casual authority” by artist and critic Sue Williamson (Williamson, 2004:158). Commenting on the affinity his work shares with that of another great English existentialist, painter Francis Bacon, critic Brenda Atkinson observes:

“Hodgins has opinions and is not shy of intellectual examination, but he has few rules. Although he seems, much like Bacon, constitutionally incapable of producing work that is not beautiful, no matter how sinister the matter, he does not set out to be a painter of beautiful things.” (Atkinson, 2002:17)

The artist’s oeuvre is particularly marked by the repeated appearance of certain stock characters – playboys, businessmen, generals and old molls, in particular. The frequency of their repetition underscores the serial nature of Hodgins’ output as a painter. It also highlights a persistent tension between repetition and nuance in his work and between likeness and difference. Strongly influenced by disparate trends in European modernism his paintings share particular thematic overlap with German Expressionism. Equally noteworthy is the influence of his English working class background on his witty, often caustic, artistic worldview.

1920

Born in Dulwich, London

1934

Leaves school to become a newspaper delivery boy

1938

Emigrated to South Africa

1940

Joins the Union Defence Forces; serves in Kenya until 1941, and then in Egypt until 1944

1944

Returns to England

1945

Discharged from military service

1946

Emergency Teachers’ Course – Camden Town, London

1947-50

Teaches in London’s East End

Studies art part-time –Goldsmiths College, London University

Recommended for full-time study

1951

Arts and Crafts Certificate, Goldsmiths College, London University

1953

NDD, Goldsmiths College, London University

Returns to South Africa

1954

Appointed lecturer, School of Art, Pretoria Technical College

1962

Begins work as a journalist and critic –NewscheckMagazine

1966-83

Appointed lecturer, University of the Witwatersrand Fine Art Department

1983

Retired to paint full-time

1946

Emergency Teachers’ Course, Camden Town, London

1951

Obtained Arts and Crafts Certificate, Goldsmiths College, London University

1953

Obtained NDD (National Diploma of Design), painting major, Goldsmiths College, London University

1954

Group exhibition, Transvaal Art of Today, Pretoria Centenary Exhibition

1955

First Solo exhibition, Lidchi Gallery, Johannesburg

1956

Solo exhibition, Lidchi Gallery, Johannesburg

1958

Solo exhibition, Lidchi Gallery, Johannesburg

1959

Solo exhibition, South African Association of Arts, Pretoria

1960

Solo exhibition, Lidchi Gallery, Johannesburg

Second Quadrennial Exhibition of South African Art

1961

Joint exhibition (with Ernst de Jongh), Gallery 101, Johannesburg

1970

Joint exhibition (with Jan Neethling), Lidchi Gallery, Johannesburg

1971

Joint exhibition (with Jan Neethling), Lidchi Gallery, Johannesburg

1975

Joint exhibition (with Jan Neethling), Goodman Gallery, Johannesburg

1978

Joint exhibition (with Jan Neethling), Market Gallery, Johannesburg

1979

Cape Town Biennale, South African National Gallery

1980

Joint exhibition (with Jan Neethling), Market Gallery, Johannesburg

Group exhibition, Wits University Lecturers Exhibition, Gertrude Posel Gallery, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg

1983

Group exhibition (with Deborah Bell, Ann Sassoon and Frank van Schaik), Carriage House Gallery, Johannesburg

1984

Group exhibition, Four Johannesburg Artists, South African National Gallery, Cape Town(and National Gallery tour), with Ricky Burnett, Jo Smail and Ilona Anderson

1985

Group exhibition, Tributaries, an exhibition of South African art touring South Africa and West Germany

Cape Town Triennial, South African National Gallery

1986

Retrospective Exhibition, Standard Bank National Festival of the Arts, Grahamstown

Group exhibition, AA Mutual Life Vita Arts Now Awards Exhibition, 3rdQuarter Award, Johannesburg Art Gallery

1987

Solo exhibition, Goodman Gallery, Johannesburg

Group exhibition, AA Life Vita Art Now Awards Exhibition, Johannesburg Art Gallery

Group exhibition (with Deborah Bell and William Kentridge), Hogarth in Johannesburg: A Series of Etchings, Cassirer Gallery, Johannesburg

1990

Group exhibition, Life Vita Now Awards, Johannesburg Art Gallery

Solo exhibition, Goodman Gallery, Johannesburg

1991

Group exhibition (with Deborah Bell and William Kentridge), Little Morals Series, Cassirer Gallery, Johannesburg

1992

Solo exhibition, Goodman Gallery, Johannesburg

Group exhibition, IGI Life Vita Now Awards, Johannesburg Art Gallery

1993

Group exhibition (with Deborah Bell and William Kentridge), Easing the Passing (of the Hours), computer animation and graphics, Cassirer Gallery, Johannesburg

Group exhibition, (with Deborah Bell and Retief van Wyk), Portrait in the Round,Goodman Gallery, Johannesburg

1994

Group exhibition, Displacements, curated by David Bunn and Jane Taylor, an exhibition of works on paper,North West University, Evanston, Illinois, USA

1995

Solo exhibition, Goodman Gallery, Johannesburg

Group exhibition, Mayibue iAfrica, Bernard Jacobson Gallery, London as part of theAfrica ’95 Festival

Group exhibition, Seven Stories of Africa, South African participation curated by David Koloane, Whitechapel Gallery, London as part of the Africa ’95 Festival

Group exhibition, Panoramas of Passage, curated by Clive van den Berg, Meridian International Centre, Washington DC, USA in association with University of the Witwatersrand Art Galleries

1997

Group exhibition, South African Artists, Michel Luneau Gallery, Nantes, France

Group exhibition, Ubu 101, exhibition with both South African and International Artist, Gertrude Posel Gallery, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg

Group exhibition (with William Kentridge and Deborah Bell), Collaborations, Johannesburg Art Gallery

Group exhibition, Cram, A.V.A Gallery, Cape Town, in collaboration with the Goodman Gallery, Johannesburg

1998

Solo exhibition, Goodman Gallery, Johannesburg

1999

Group exhibition, Fast Forward, Van Reekum Museum of Modern Art, Apeldoorn, Netherlands

Group exhibition, World Artists at the Millennium, United Nations, New York

2000

Solo exhibition, Goodman Gallery, Johannesburg

2001

Solo exhibition, Joao Ferreira Gallery, Cape Town

Retrospective Exhibition, 50 Years a Painter, University of Potchefstroom, Potchefstroom

Joint Exhibition (with Jan Neethling), Art on Paper Gallery, Johannesburg

Group exhibition, Baggage, (an Hourglass Project), United States, touring Atlanta, Charlotte and Roswell in 2002

2001-02

Retrospective Exhibition, 50 Years a Painter, Sasol Art Museum, University of Stellenbosch, Stellenbosch

2002

Solo Exhibition, Goodman Gallery, Johannesburg

Retrospective Exhibition, 50 Years a Painter, Gertrude Posel Gallery, University of Witwatersrand, Johannesburg

Retrospective Exhibition, 50 Years a Painter, Tatham Art Gallery, Pietermaritzburg

Solo exhibition, Joao Ferreira Gallery, Cape Town

2003

Solo exhibition, Simon Mee Fine Art at the Arndean Gallery, Cork Street, London

Group exhibition, Absolutely/Perhaps, Simon Mee Fine Art, London

2004

Solo exhibition, Hodgins, Goodman Gallery, Johannesburg

Art Basel with Goodman Gallery

Art Basel Miami Beach with Goodman Gallery

2005

Solo exhibition,New Oil Paintings and Monoprints,Simon Mee Fine Art, Queensgate, London

Art Basel with Goodman Gallery

2006

Solo exhibition, From a Far South, Simon Mee Fine Art, Cork Street, London

2007

Solo exhibition, Hodgins, Goodman Gallery, Johannesburg and Cape Town

Group exhibition, Art on Paper, Johannesburg

2008

Solo exhibition, Simon Mee Gallery, Cork Street, London

Solo exhibition, Ceramics, Bell-Roberts Gallery, Cape Town

Public Collections – South Africa

  • VODACOM, Cape Town
  • Anglo American, Johannesburg
  • SASOL Limited, Johannesburg
  • Rembrandt van Rijn Foundation, Stellenbosch
  • South African Breweries Collection, Johannesburg
  • South African Broadcasting Corporation, Johannesburg
  • SANLAM Corporate Art Collection, Bellville
  • MTN Collection
  • Billiton, Johannesburg
  • Vodacom Collection, Cape Town

Galleries & Museums – South Africa

  • Johannesburg Art Gallery
  • Pretoria Art Museum
  • Iziko South African National Gallery, Cape Town
  • William Humphreys Art Gallery, Kimberley
  • Sandton Art Gallery, Johannesburg
  • Nelson Mandela Metropolitan Art Gallery, Port Elizabeth
  • Durban Art Gallery
  • Tatham Art Gallery, Pietermaritzburg

Universities – South Africa

  • University of South Africa, Pretoria
  • University of the Witwatersrand Art Galleries, Johannesburg

Private Collections

  • His works can be found in numerous collections in South Africa and Abroad

1955

Received the Best Young Artist Award from Transvaal Art of Today at the Centenary Exhibition, Pretoria

1986

Vita Art Now, 3rdQuarter Award Winner

1987

Vita Art Now, Overall Award Winner

1990

Vita Art Now, 3rdQuarter Award Winner

1992

Vita Art Now, 1stQuarter Award Winner

1995

Awarded the Helgaard Steyn Award for painting

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