Back To Auction View Of Cape Town – February 2017

Lot 812

Robert Griffiths Hodgins


90 by 120cm

R300 000 – R500 000

signed, dated 1999/2000 and inscribed with the artist’s name, the title and the medium on the reverse oil, pencil and charcoal on canvas

Born the illegitimate son of a single mother in London, Robert Hodgins grew up in an array of foster homes. Hodgins credited these circumstances for instilling in him an early interest in art through visits to the great British galleries to keep warm and because they were free of charge. Some of the first works to impress him were those of Van Gogh, El Greco and Lucien Freud. Despite not completing his secondary schooling until the 1940s, Hodgins was a gifted learner and a devout reader of art, culture and the classics, able to quote great poetry and literature with accuracy and understanding. Many of the plays and poems that impressed so deeply upon him would serve as inspiration for his artwork in later years. Death and the Maiden is one such literary work that would inspire his painting, lot 812, by the same name.

Death and the Maiden is a poem written by the German poet, Matthias Claudius, which formed the basis of a lied composed by Franz Schubert in 1817. Hodgins includes this poem in his work, both in English and German, scribbled on to the canvas in a section made to appear like a scholar’s note book. The poem appears to hover over the maiden, painted in the warm spectrum of Indian yellow through to vermillion red, who is being chased by the deathly monster, depicted, in turn, by cooler shades in a personification of the cold, dark nature of obliteration. The maiden runs in the direction of her icy shadow, towards a stack of four city scapes, while keeping a watchful eye on death. Death, on the other hand, bedazzled with hat and cane, dances gaily towards his pending victory, in this comedic trivialization - a ubiquity of Hodgins’ style.

- Dundas, N., Robert Hodgins (1920 – 2010), South African Journal of Science, 2010; 106-108, Art. #347


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