• Impressionist/ Modern Evening  auction at Christies

    Sale 2311

    Impressionist/ Modern Evening Sale

    4 May 2010, New York, Rockefeller Plaza

  • Lot 31

    Barbara Hepworth (1903-1975)

    Upright Forms (Conversations)

    Price Realised  

    Barbara Hepworth (1903-1975)
    Upright Forms (Conversations)
    white marble
    Height (with base): 37 in. (94 cm.)
    Executed in 1972; unique


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    Dr. Sophie Bowness will include this marble in her forthcoming revised Hepworth catalogue raisonné under the archive number BH 543.

    Dating from 1972, Upright Forms (Conversations), is carved in white marble and demonstrates Hepworth's clear mastery of this medium. In 1964, she wrote to Norman Reid, "I am one of the few people in the world who know how to speak through marble." She had learnt to carve from a marmista (master-carver), Giovanni Ardini, as a student in Rome and remained fascinated by this classical material throughout her career, which she carved outdoors at her studio in St Ives, Cornwall.

    She was particularly drawn to certain qualities of marble and told the critic Josef P. Hodin in 1964, "I love marble specially because of its radiance in the light, its hardness, precision and response to the sun ... Marble is indeed a noble material, it has a most exceptional sensitivity and delicacy as well as a tremendous strength" (quoted in J.P. Hodin, 'Barbara Hepworth and the Mediterranean Spirit,' in Marmo Rivista Internazionale d'Arte e Architettura, no. 3, December 1964, pp. 59 and 62).

    The smoothness of the surface of Upright Forms (Conversations) accentuates the white purity of this particular marble and connects Hepworth's sculptures to the work of her second husband, Ben Nicholson, in particular his painted white reliefs of the 1930s. In Upright Forms (Conversations) this utopian white purity coexists with the natural and unpredicable grey veining, an inherent natural quality that occurs in this marble.

    The relationship of the two vertical forms, standing side by side, evokes Hepworth's carved marble pieces of the 1930s. In some of these earlier works, two carved pieces interrelate, in others, three, which Hepworth explored in response to the birth of her triplets in 1934. This investigation into the dynamism created between separate forms, placed together, confirms Hepworth's continued interest both with the prehistoric standing stones found in Cornwall and with international influences, in particular those of Arp, Brancusi and the surrealist sculptures of Giacometti.

    The piercing through of the standing forms both emphasizes and challenges the underlying solidity of the marble. Hepworth's first pierced sculpture was carved in 1931, and she continued to use this technique in many of her works. She believed, "that the dynamic quality of the surfaces of a sculpture can be increased by devices which give one the impression that a form has been created by forces operating within its own mass as well as from outside ... the piercing of mass is a response to my desire to liberate mass without departing from it" (E. Roditi, Dialogues on Art, 1960, p. 99).

    Provenance

    Marlborough Gallery, London.
    Acquired from the above by the present owner, 1985.


    Pre-Lot Text

    Property of a Private West Coast Collection


    Exhibited

    New York, Marlborough Gallery, Barbara Hepworth: Conversations, March-April 1974, p. 10, no. 6 (illustrated; illustrated again in color, p. 24).
    Edinburgh Royal Botanic Garden, Barbara Hepworth: Late Works, August-September 1976, p. 35, no. 21 (illustrated).
    New York, Marlborough Gallery, Barbara Hepworth: Carvings and Bronzes, May-June 1979, p. 31, no. 12 (illustrated).
    Fine Arts Museum of San Francisco (on extended loan).