Robert Hodgins (1920 - 2010) Biography and Exhibitions

Robert Hodgins was born in Dulwich, London, on 27 June 1920, and immigrated to South Africa in 1938. He enlisted with the Union Defence Force in 1940, and served in Kenya and Egypt.
In 1944 he returned to England, and studied art and education at Goldsmiths College, University of London, where he received an arts and crafts certificate in 1951 and a National Diploma of Design in painting in 1953.
He returned to South Africa, where he taught at the Pretoria Technical College School of Art from 1954. From 1962 he was a journalist and critic for Newscheck magazine. He lectured in painting at the University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, from 1966 to 1983.
Hodgins worked using a variety of paint media, including oils, acrylic paint and tempera. he had been exhibiting since the 1950s but did not come to wider attention until the early 1980s. In 1980 and 1981 he had produced a series of paintings based on Ubu, the main character in the play Ubu Ro (see as well William Kentridge), who became a recurring subject of his art.

In 1983, he retired to paint full-time. He partook in many solo and group exhibitions in South Africa and abroad. His work can be seen in many galleries, corporate and public collections, including Anglo American, the Johannesburg Art Gallery, the Sandton Art Gallery, the Pretoria Art Museum, the South African National Gallery in Cape Town, University of South Africa (UNISA), the University of the Witwatersrand Art Galleries, and the William Humphreys Art Gallery in Kimberley.

Robert Hodgins died on 15 March 2010, in Johannesburg, after a bout with lung cancer at the age of 89.


Despite having exhibited since the early 1950's, it was until 1981 when he was properly recognised. In the 1980’s, many artists began to develop unique styles, and made anti-apartheid or socially conscious statements. Robert Hodgins was not the exception, and began satirizing figures of power. The impact of these works was such that the Standard Bank National Arts Festival hosted a major retrospective exhibition in 1986.

Robert Hodgins can be described as an expressionistic painter and graphic artist of historical events, images, figures and impressions. His icons of malevolent businessmen in pinstriped suits, prison cells, historical references and political tyrants still reappear in his recent works.

He works in oil, acrylic, tempera and in various graphic media. Although the human form is the subject matter of many of his paintings, it is colour, space and placing that plays a very important role in the works. 

"There are paintings that stem from memory and from a sombre look at the human condition. Paintings about the construction and confusion of contemporary urban life, but also paintings about the pleasures of being alive, pleasures that crowd in upon the pessimism everywhere - that crowd in and refuse to be ignored". (Goodman Gallery 2000)

He works in oil, acrylic, tempera, and in various graphic media. Although the human form is the subject matter of many of his paintings, it is colour, space and placing that play an important role in the works. In his own words:

 

Hodgins has exhibited extensively in South Africa, London, France, the United States and Netherlands for over six decades.

1951 - Arts and Crafts Certificate, Goldsmiths College, London University.
1953 - NDD (National Diploma of Design), painting major, Goldsmiths College, London University.
1954 - Lecturer, School of Art, Pretoria Technical College.
1966-83 - Lecturer at the University of the Witwatersrand Fine Art Department.
1983 - Retired to paint full time.

"Being an artist is about putting something into your subject matter that isn't inherently there. You are not at the mercy of your subject matter, it's the content, and what you put into it, what you do with it, what extract from it, and what you put it with, that is so exciting. If you are aware of this, then you begin to build on the content of your whole life.
Before you know where you are, you're already thinking about the next work, and you could live to be 300. Paintings can be one-night stands or lifetime love-affairs - you never know until you get cracking".

SELECTED SOLO EXHIBITIONS

1956-1960 - Several Exhibitions at the Lidchi Gallery in Johannesburg.
1986 - Retrospective, Standard Bank National Festival of the Arts, Grahamstown.
1990 to 2000 - Several Exhibitions at The Goodman Gallery, Johannesburg.
2001 - Joao Ferreira Gallery, Cape Town.
2001 - 50 Years a Painter, Retrospective exhibition, University of Potchefstroom, Potchefstroom.
2001/02 - 50 Years a Painter, Retrospective exhibition, SASOL Art Museum, University of Stellenbosch, Stellenbosch.
2002 - Goodman Gallery, Johannesburg.
2002 - 50 Years a Painter, Retrospective exhibition, Gertrude Posel Gallery, University of Witswatersrand, Johannesburg.
2002 - 50 Years a Painter, Retrospective exhibition, Tatham Art Gallery, Pietermaritzburg.
2002 - Joao Ferreira Gallery, Cape Town.
2003 - Simon Mee Fine Art at the Arndean Gallery, Cork Street, London.
2004 - Hodgins at the Goodman, Johannesburg
2005 - Simon Mee Fine Art, Queensgate, London - New Oil Paintings and Monoprints
2006 - Simon Mee Fine Art . .From a Far South., Cork Street, London
2007 - Hodgins at the Goodman, Johannesburg and Cape Town
2008 - Ceramics exhibition, Bell-Roberts Gallery, Cape Town
2009 - Hodgins at the Goodman, Cape Town

SELECTED GROUP EXHIBITIONS

1986 - AA Mutual Life Vita Arts Now Awards Exhibition, 3rd quarter Award. Winner, Johannesburg Art Gallery.
1987 - AA Life Vita Art Now Awards Exhibition, Overall Award Winner, Johannesburg.
Hogarth in Johannesburg, a series of etchings in collaboration with Deborah Bell and William Kentridge, Cassirer Gallery
1990 - Life Vita Now Awards, Johannesburg Art Gallery, 3rd quarter winner.
1991 - Little Morals Series with Deborah Bell and William Kentridge, Cassirer Gallery, Johannesburg.
1992 - IGI Life Vita Now Awards, Johannesburg Art Gallery, 1st quarter Award Winner.
1992/3 - Easing the Passing (of the Hours) computer animation and graphics in collaboration with William Kentridge and Deborah Bell.
1994 - Displacements curated by David Bunn and Jane Taylor, an exhibition of works on paper, invited to lecture and exhibit with a group of South African artists at the Northwestern University, Evanston, Illinois, USA.
1995 - Mayibue iAfrica, Bernard Jacobson Gallery, London, as part of the Africa ’95 Festival.
Seven Stories of Africa, South African participation curated by David Koloane, coordinated by Felicity Lunn and Catherine Lampert, Whitechapel Gallery, London as part of the Africa ’95 Festival.
Panoramas of Passage, curated by Clive van den Berg, Meridian International Centre, Washington DC in association with University of the Witwatersrand Art Galleries Recipient, Helgaard Steyn, Award for painting.
1997 - Exhibition with South African Artists, Michel Luneau Gallery, Nantes, France.
"Ubu 101",exhibition with both South African and international artists, Gertrude Posel Gallery, University of the Witwatersrand.
"Collaborations", joint exhibition with William Kentridge and Deborah Bell at the Johannesburg Art Gallery.
1999 - REWIND FAST FORWARD, Van Reekum Museum of Modern Art, Appeldoorn, Netherlands
2003 - Absolutely/Perhaps, group show with William Kentridge, Johannes Phokela, Zwelethu Mthethwa, Sam Nhlengethwa. Simon Mee Fine Art, London
2004 - Art Basel and Art Basel Miami Beach with Goodman Gallery, Johannesburg
2005 - Art Basel with Goodman Gallery
2007 - Art on Paper, Johannesburg