Five colour lithograph
A self-described ‘optimistic old sod’, expressionist painter Robert Hodgins was born on 27 June 1920 in Dulwich, London, arriving in South Africa on his 18th birthday in 1938. Relentlessly prolific and eminently quotable, Hodgins explored the turmoil and joy of the human condition, accentuated through pronounced colours and frenetic linework. Working in a variety of media including oil, acrylic, tempera, and lithography, Hodgins’s work is imbued with the artist’s emotional sincerity and biting sense of humour.
‘Nero fiddled while Rome burned’ as the popular adage goes, referring to the Great Fire of Rome in AD 64 during which the emperor, Nero, was nowhere to be found (evidently, he was occupied playing the fiddle). By titling this work Rome, Hodgins draws a parallel between the lounging grotesque figures and the increasingly decadent Roman leadership, which directly contributed to that empire’s demise. As only Hodgins can, the work visually skewers so-called leaders who are content to dwell in political spoils and trifles while the smoke rises around them.