The Hand of God by Robert Hodgins (1920 - 2010)
The Hand of God, 1990, oil on canvas, 890 x 590 mm

Robert Hodgins (1920 - 2010)

Description for The Hand of God by Robert Hodgins (1920 - 2010)

(Robert Hodgins [sa])



About the artwork


The Hand of God by Hodgins, is wittingly titled to add meaning and to locate his painting in time and space. Here, a subject as mundane as a hand gains immediate significance. An abstracted silhouette of a human face and a large red form completes the composition. 



About Hodgins’s art


What is especially striking in looking at Hodgins’ images is just how ambiguous and characteristically multi-layered they are and, at the same time, just how dangerously they flirt with the edge of not making any sense at all.


(Ivor Powell 2002:49)


For half a century Hodgins has explored the medium of paint and the potential of colour in creating images that are often intense and sometimes humorous. Hodgins is best known for paintings in which he uses simplified figures to sardonically depict people as self-concerned, lacking conscience and infinitely unaware of their own fallibility. He furthermore experimented with printmaking, using the medium to express a range of satire. The artist describes his art-making process as being somewhat random and without a pre-conceived plan or plot. Characteristically things only start to happen the moment he is confronted with the canvas. 


Some of his most memorable multi-media projects were produced in collaboration with fellow artists William Kentridge and Deborah Bell. Robert Hodgins first exhibited with Bell, in 1983 in a series of works entitled Hogarth in Johannesburg, followed by the Little Morals Series, 'Easing the Passing (of the Hours)' and 'Ubu 101', culminating in an exhibition at the Johannesburg Art Gallery. 



Hodgins’s background


Robert Hodgins was born in London in 1920. He immigrated to Africa when he was 18, joined the Union Defense Forces and served in Kenya and Egypt. He later returned to England to attended the Goldsmiths College, London University, where he studied art and education and received an arts and crafts certificate and a National Diploma for design in painting. Robert Hodgins returned to South Africa in the 50’s lectured at the School of Art, Pretoria Technical College. Then he took up a position as Journalist and Critic for Newscheck magazine. Between 1966 and 1983 he was a Lecturer at the University of the Witwatersrand Fine Art Department. At the end of 1983 he retired to take up painting full-time. Sadly, the artist passed away in March 2010. 





Goodman gallery. Robert Hodgins biography [O] Available: 

[Accessed 27 December 2013]


Powell, I. 2002. Through Ubu’s Eyes. In B. Atkinson (ed.) Robert Hodgins. Cape Town: Tafelberg Publishers(p. 42 – 51).


Powell, I. 2002. Robert Hodgins. Cape Town: Tafelberg.