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    Sale 7637

    20th Century British Art

    12 December 2008, London, King Street

  • Lot 138

    Dame Barbara Hepworth (1903-1975)

    Jade carving

    Price Realised  


    Dame Barbara Hepworth (1903-1975)
    Jade carving
    dark green jade
    5½ in. (14 cm.) high
    Carved circa 1973.
    This work will be listed as no. BH 574 A in the forthcoming catalogue raisonné of Barbara Hepworth's sculpture being prepared by Dr Sophie Bowness.

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    Dr Sophie Bowness comments, 'The jade appears to have been obtained for Barbara in New Zealand by her first cousin Eric Colbeck, General Manager of the Hotel Corporation of New Zealand. There is a reference to it in a letter she wrote to her Auckland-based friend George Wooller on 29 December 1972, '[Eric Colbeck] has managed to get me a piece of green stone; but he is having some difficulty in getting this piece to me'. No further evidence has yet appeared about the jade. Barbara owned a copy of New Zealand Jade: The Story of Greenstone, Wellington, 1970, by Russell J. Beck' (private correspondence, 2008).

    The present sculpture is a classic small-scale example of Hepworth's late carved work; and worked in a medium, jade, that she used on just this one occasion. In its apparent simplicity, it is very modern and forward-looking, equally, it also harks back to her (now destroyed) 10 inch high alabaster carving of 1931, Pierced Form, which was partly responsible for establishing her as such a driving force in modernist sculpture. She wrote about a visit in 1932 that she and Ben Nicholson made to Constantin Brancusi's Paris studio, accompanied by photographs of her recent work, including Pierced Form, 'I had been seeking a free assembly of certain formal elements including space and calligraphy as well as weight and texture, and in the Pierced Form, I had felt the most intense pleasure in piercing the stone in order to make an abstract form and space; quite a different sensation from that of doing it for the purpose of realism. I was, therefore, looking for some sort of ratification of an idea which had germinated ... and which has been the basis of my work ever since' (see H. Read (intro.), Barbara Hepworth: Carvings and Drawings, London, 1952, section 2).
    Discussing a carving from this period, Rock Face, from 1973 (Tate), Matthew Gale's and Chris Stephens' comments could apply to the present carving, 'Hepworth's choice of material [in the case of Rock Face it was Ancaster stone] reflects the revival of colour in her later work. The static verticality resulting from the artist's economy of carving is off-set by the surface pattern of ... the block intermingling in a manner suggestive of wood grain ... the flatness of the faces and the simplicity is in marked contrast to the complex forms of her early work and reflects a general tendency towards simplification of stone forms ... Hepworth saw these late monolithic pieces in terms of ritual and spritual significance, 'You can't make a sculpture without it being a thing - a creature, a figure, a fetish' she said in 1970 [see A. Bowness (ed.), The complete sculpture of Barbara Hepworth 1960-69, London, 1971, p. 14]. As she explained to Alan Bowness, Hepworth saw the late carvings 'as objects which rise out of the land or the sea, mysteriously'' [ibid.] (see M. Gale and C. Stephens, Barbara Hepworth works in the Tate Gallery Collection and the Barbara Hepworth Museum St Ives, London, 1999, p. 264).

    Special Notice

    No VAT will be charged on the hammer price, but VAT at 15% will be added to the buyer's premium which is invoiced on a VAT inclusive basis.


    Purchased in the 1970s from the artist by her friend Henry C. Gilbert, who ran the Wills Lane Gallery in St Ives, and from whom acquired by the present owners.