Barbara Hepworth (1903-1975)
Barbara Hepworth (1903-1975)

Stringed Figure (Curlew) (Version I)

Barbara Hepworth (1903-1975)
Stringed Figure (Curlew) (Version I)
brass and string with original wooden base
Length: 22 in. (55.9 cm.)
Height (including base): 17½ in. (44.5 cm.)
Conceived in 1956
Grosvenor Gallery, London.
Private collection, Cambridge, Massachusetts (acquired from the above, 1969); sale, Christie's, New York, 11 May 1995, lot 407.
Acquired by the present owner, 1995.
J.P. Hodin, Barbara Hepworth, Neuchâtel, 1961, p. 169, no. 225 (another example illustrated).
A.M. Hammacher, Barbara Hepworth, New York, 1998, p. 210, no. 100 (another example illustrated, p. 125).

Brought to you by

Brooke Lampley
Brooke Lampley

Lot Essay

Dr. Sophie Bowness will include this sculpture in her forthcoming revised Hepworth catalogue raisonné under the catalogue number BH 225 A.

Hepworth constructed Stringed Figure (Curlew) (Version I) at her St Ives studio in 1956, using brass sheeting and cotton fishermen's string, acquired locally. Following a year of designing the set and décor for Michael Tippett's three-act opera The Midsummer Marriage performed at the Royal Opera House, Hepworth had a newfound sensitivity to movement. Her interest in working with metal, specifically brass and copper (see Forms in Movement [Galliard], BH 212), enabled fresh experimentation and innovation that differs from the solid, totemic carved wooden sculptures from earlier in the decade. She moved away from an exclusive interest in carving, responding to the techniques of younger sculptors such as Reg Butler and Lynn Chadwick. Soon afterwards she would resume work in bronze.

A new openness, delicacy and lightness characterize Stringed Figure (Curlew)(Version I) and the related Orpheus and Winged Figure sculptures in brass. Sheet metal allowed for greater freedom in describing space, with the open curving planes of Curlew enclosing parabolic curves of stringing. Brian Wall, Hepworth's then-assistant, later recalled the curvature of the sheet, "achieved by 'cold rolling' the brass, which was roughly patinated green on the inner surface" (quoted in M. Gale and C. Stephens, Barbara Hepworth, Works in the Tate Gallery Collection and the Barbara Hepworth Museum St Ives, London, 1999, p. 64). The "cold rolling" process in turn yielded greater individuality within the editions. The inclusion of strings was initially inspired by Naum Gabo who joined her, Henry Moore and Ben Nicholson in the group Unit One, exhibiting in the 1930s at the Mayor Gallery, London.

The first brass series (entitled Theme of Electronics [Orpheus]) was commissioned by the electronics firm Mullards (subsidiary of Philips) for their London headquarters. The Orpheus sculptures were soon followed by the Curlew series which vary in size; a "maquette" measuring 14 in. (35.6 cm.) in length (sold, Christie's, New York, 2 May 2012, lot 388), the present work, and a larger example measuring 31 in. (78.7 cm.) in length. The following year, Hepworth again used brass for the Winged Figure group.

The present motif's secondary title, Curlew, stems from Hepworth's fascination with birds. Curlew (fig. 1), a bird native to the coasts of Great Britain received its name from its curled beak. The soaring arched forms of Stringed Figure suggesting the flight of the curlew, Europe's largest wader.

(fig. 1) The curlew, genus Numenius, the Eurasian Curlew Numenius arquata.

Artist's photo:
Barbara Hepworth with another version of the present work.
Barcode: 28851097

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