Strauss & Co is pleased to announce details for Three Robs: Artist, Collaborator, Friend, the first-ever sale exclusively devoted the much-loved artist, teacher and critic Robert Hodgins. Hailed as a national treasure when he passed in 2010, Robert Hodgins continues to loom large in the imagination of many who knew him, including his many collaborators, collectors, students and readers of his penetrating art criticism. This premier evening sale will be held on Wednesday, 9 November 2022, and will conclude Strauss & Co’s multi-day programme for Johannesburg Auction Week.
Comprised of some 40 lots, many from the Estate of the Late Robert Hodgins and fresh to market, the sale’s title, Three Robs: Artist, Collaborator, Friend, gestures to the multifaceted character of this influential artist. In addition to a number of oils executed in Hodgins’ characteristically vivid colour palette, the sale will include rare watercolours, monotypes, pastels and drawings. These works affirm his bold expressionist style and colourist manners, as well as reveal his experimental technique and habit of collaboration.
Organised by Wilhelm van Rensburg, Senior Art Specialist & Head Curator, Strauss & Co, Three Robs: Artist, Collaborator, Friend also includes works made in collaboration with Sarah Ballam, Deborah Bell, Kendell Geers, William Kentridge, Jan Neethling and Sam Nhlengethwa. In 2014, William Kentridge, a frequent collaborator with Hodgins in the 1980s and 90s, admiringly described Hodgins as “someone who made the meaning from the work outwards” and “took enormous pleasure and comfort from the daily activity of making”.
“Robert embraced uncertainty, risk and experimentation,” says Wilhelm van Rensburg, who knew Hodgins personally and in 2019 curated a large survey of the artist’s drawings. “If Hodgins was uncertain about a figure in a painting, he simply resorted to pencil and paper and generated a variety of human shapes, one of which would suggest the manner in which a shape evolves into a human form, perfect for his painterly purposes on canvas. Three Robs will provide collectors with a unique insight into the processes as an artist who was perpetually in conversation with art history.”
Born in London in 1920, drawing played a formative role in Hodgins’ artistic development, both at school and at Goldsmiths’ College, where he studied painting in the early 1950s. His art school contemporaries included abstract painter Bridget Riley and fashion designer Mary Quant. Hodgins permanently settled in South Africa in 1953. An admired teacher, he held influential posts at the Pretoria College of Art (1954-61) and University of the Witwatersrand (1966-83). Notably, he also worked as a journalist and cultural critic at Otto Krause’s News/Check magazine (1962-68), penning appreciative reviews of Wolf Kibel, Alexis Preller and Edoardo Villa.
Hodgins held his first solo exhibition in 1956. Strongly influenced by the figuration of Georges Rouault and Pablo Picasso, he briefly pursued an exhibition career before forsaking art in favour of teaching and writing. He returned to painting in the 1980s, achieving renown in his so-called retirement. The works in Three Robs: Artist, Collaborator, Friend are drawn from this renaissance period, a bold run of form that extended from the mid-1980s until his death in 2010. Synthesising diverse influences, including Frances Bacon, David Hockney and Philip Guston, it was during this period that Hodgins emerged as a decisive and transformative figure in the story of contemporary South African painting.