Roy Hodgkinson was born in Sydney in 1911.
Hodgkinson studied at the Royal Art Society of New South Wales under Dattilo Rubbo an Italian-born Australian artist and teacher. He later studied at the East Sydney Technical College under sculptor Raynor Hoff. A veteran of World War I, Hoff is known for his large sculptures and memorials, including Sydney's Anzac Memorial.
Between 1929 and 1931, Hodgkinson worked as an illustrator and cartoonist for 2 Sydney newspapers, Daily Guardian and The Sun. Then he moved to Melbourne where he worked as an artist for The Herald newspaper.
By 1938, Hodgkinson had moved to Europe. He spent 2 years travelling while creating many artworks. He visited England, France and Italy to study art and investigate commercial printing for his work with The Herald. While in Europe, he also worked drawing dancers from the acclaimed De Basil Russian Ballet Company.
Official war artist
Hodgkinson returned to Australia during World War II and enlisted in the Armoured division as a trooper.
In 1942, he was appointed as an official war artist by the Australian War Memorial. His role was to document experiences of the war through his artworks.
During his appointment, Hodgkinson served in Northern Australia, New Guinea, Ceylon, India and Burma.
Many of his works in the Northern Territory depicted the Japanese raids on Darwin in 1942. He sketched Australian gunners, buildings and ships damaged after air raids, and Japanese aircraft being shot down. He also documented everyday military life, such as troops playing and resting. Some sketches depict soldiers arguing or taking 'smoko' breaks.
One well-known illustration Temperature 104 degrees shows unidentified Australian soldiers in a canteen scuffle on a 40°C day.
Wartime artists are sometimes in danger themselves, and Hodgkinson was no exception.
An Adelaide newspaper published Hodgkinson's account of a crash boat rescue with the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF). He recalled the experience in treacherous, crocodile-infested waters of the Loloki River in New Guinea:
Against the fierce current, however, we were unable to find our way to the crash boat, and we were forced to stay another night huddled together in the small boat. Next day we found the larger craft and made good speed back to Port Moresby.
['War Artist In Rescue Attempt', News, 23 September 1944]
Hodgkinson's drawings from New Guinea showed scenes of jungle warfare, soldiers in trenches and aircraft attacks. He also shared scenes from hospitals. Many works showed injured soldiers and men receiving treatment for tinea, a common fungal infection in high humidity.
Hodgkinson's well-known illustration Wounded Gunner Home From Lae shows Flight Sergeant David O Duncan being lowered from a Boston bomber after an air raid.
Other well-known works from Hodgkinson during World War II:
- Gunner Jackie Peacock
- Tinea Treatment
- Milne Bay concert party, New Guinea
- First 'Zero' Japanese fighter brought down on Australian mainland
Much of Hodgkinson's work is cartoon-like, capturing the mood and surroundings of the characters he portrays. His works are detailed and intricate, showing both day-to-day life and the extraordinary.
The Australian War Memorial holds many of Hodgkinson's works and has shown them in several exhibitions.
Life after World War II
Hodgkinson was discharged from the Australian Imperial Force in March 1946. He returned to Melbourne to continue his art. Much of his post-war work shows scenes and portraits of the theatre. He was a long-serving member of the Melbourne Savage Club, which attracted artists, intellectuals and business leaders. He continued to work for The Herald newspaper, retiring as Chief Artist in 1976.
Hodgkinson died in 1993.
- 1942 'Herald Man Official War Artist', The Herald (Melbourne, Vic. : 1861 - 1954), 14 February, p. 3. , viewed 18 Oct 2021, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article245102125
- 1942 'Painting The Battle For Australia', The Herald (Melbourne, Vic. : 1861 - 1954), 4 August, p. 4. , viewed 18 Oct 2021, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article245203151
- 1942 'Portrait of a War Artist', The Daily News (Perth, WA : 1882 - 1950), 22 August, p. 18. (FIRST EDITION), viewed 18 Oct 2021, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article78296969
- 1943 'ALLIES AT SANANANDA FRONT', The Australasian (Melbourne, Vic. : 1864 - 1946), 13 February, p. 17. , viewed 18 Oct 2021, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article142146168 (has photo of Hodgkinson at work)
- 1944 'War Artist In Rescue Attempt', News (Adelaide, SA: 1923 - 1954), 23 September, p 3, viewed 18 Oct 2021, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article127044187
- Australian Broadcasting Commission. 1939, ABC weekly ABC, Sydney viewed 8 November 2021 http://nla.gov.au/nla.obj-1271117307
- Australian War Memorial (undated), Captain Roy Cecil Hodgkinson person profile, viewed 18 Oct 2021, https://www.awm.gov.au/collection/P65080
- DVA (undated) Roy Cecil Hodgkinson, Department of Veterans' Affairs Nominal Rolls, viewed 18 Oct 2021, https://nominal-rolls.dva.gov.au/veteran?id=495825&c=WW2#R
- NGA (1979), James Gleeson interviews Roy Hodgkinson 27 November 1979, The James Gleeson oral history collection, viewed 18 Oct 2021, https://nga.gov.au/research/gleeson/artists/hodgkinson.cfm