20th Apr, 2024 18:00

TAKING FLIGHT: Selected Works from the Phoenix Collection

Lot 27
Lot 27 - Robert Hodgins (South Africa 1920-2010)


Robert Hodgins (South Africa 1920-2010)
Father and Son

oil on canvas

Artwork date: 1996
Signature details: signed, dated and inscribed with the title and medium on the reverse

Sold for R462,100
Estimated at R400,000 - R600,000


oil on canvas

Artwork date: 1996
Signature details: signed, dated and inscribed with the title and medium on the reverse


120 x 90 cm; framed size: 147 x 117 x 4 cm


Aspire Art, Johannesburg, Historic, Modern & Contemporary Art, 17 June 2018, lot 32.

Goodman Gallery, Johannesburg.


At first glance, Robert Hodgins’, Father and Son might look unfinished. But look again: it is not the painting that is unresolved; the painting is, precisely, of ideas coming into form.
Note in particular the irreducible paradox in the way the central figure – as asserted in hard, spare outlining in red and minimal modelling in blue – dissolves into the mute off-white background on the left. By the same token, Hodgins renders the figure as form emerging from out of nothingness.

Aficionados will recognise in Father and Son something like a command performance of Hodgins’ avowed painterly process: as an all but automatic engagement between the artist’s unconscious and the empty canvas, in which the artist would lay on marks without conscious purpose to ‘push paint around’ until form would emerge and finally cohere into the state of grace of the finished work of art.

Hodgins’ great skill as a painter and expert composition, intensely draw the eye to the focus area of the painting, the portraiture in the central figure – as counterpointed with the primitive, cartoonish paint-sketching in the smaller, disembodied head. There is a livid quality to the way Hodgins’ pinks, reds and blues come together to define form – an almost flayed rawness of sensibility. The effect is haunting, and made more so by a fundamental dualism in his portraiture. The two halves do not cohere, and the visage is left in an anxious irresolution that leads into the titular theme. One both atavistic and heavily invested with emotion: fraught with ambivalence and snagged on hooks of blood and self, continuity and discontinuity. Hodgins is far too good a painter to exploit autobiography to sentimental or anecdotal effect. But he never knew his own father, nor, himself, fathered a son. That non-consummation is frozen here in an image of rare accomplishment and human empathy.


The artist is represented in numerous local and international collections, notably, the Anglo-American collection, Johannesburg; Johannesburg Art Gallery; Javett Art Centre, Pretoria; Iziko South African National Gallery, Cape Town; University of the Witwatersrand Art Gallery, Johannesburg and the William Humphreys Art Gallery, Kimberly.

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Auction: TAKING FLIGHT: Selected Works from the Phoenix Collection, 20th Apr, 2024



29 March – 20 April
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