‘Hepworth was an avid, passionate sculptor,’ says specialist Conor Jordan, discussing Barbara Hepworth’s Sculpture with Colour (Eos), a highlight of Christie’s upcoming Impressionist & Modern Art Evening Sale on 12 May. ‘Every organic form fascinated her, and carried a sense of history that she sought to convey.
Impressionist & Modern Art Evening Sale, 12 May
‘This piece was carved in 1946 in Cornwall in the Southwest of England, where Hepworth lived from the late 1930s,’ Jordan continues. Barbara Hepworth had moved to St. Ives with her second husband, the artist Ben Nicholson — joining an enclave of British Modernists who included Peter Lanyon and Roger Hilton.
The geography of the region became integral to her practice: ‘I have gained very great inspiration from the Cornish land and sea-scape,’ Hepworth wrote. ‘The horizontal line of the sea and the quality of light and colour reminds me of the Mediterranean light and colour which so excites one’s sense of form.’
Hepworth was so captivated by the light of the peninsula that she worked outdoors for much of the year, carving Sculpture with Colour (Eos) in bright sunlight, reflected off bright blue sea. ‘This relationship between figure and landscape is vitally important to me,’ Hepworth commented. ‘I cannot feel it in a city.’
Barbara Hepworth (1903-1975), Sculpture with Colour (Eos), 1946. Hopton wood stone with grey and blue paint. Height (excluding base): 23 ¼ in. (59.1 cm.) Estimate: $1,200,000-1,800,000. This work is offered in the Impressionist & Modern Art Evening Sale on 12 May at Christie’s in New York
The sculpture explores a motif that would obsess Hepworth over the course of her career: an embryonic, ovoid shape carved from hard stone. For Hepworth, ‘the carving and piercing of such a form seems to open up an infinite variety of continuous curves in the third dimension.’ The oval offered, Hepworth claimed, ‘sufficient field for exploration to last a lifetime’.
‘The work has two titles,’ Jordan explains. ‘One is the rather prosaic Sculpture with Colour, but Hepworth also gave it a Greek subtitle, as was her habit at the time, calling it Eos — the Greek goddess of the dawn.
It’s art that unlocks its secrets slowly,’ concludes the specialist. ‘It’s got a quietness about it that makes one want to revisit it constantly.’
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