Dame Barbara Hepworth (1903-1975)
Artist's Resale Right ("Droit de Suite"). Artist's… Read more Property of an Important European Collection
Dame Barbara Hepworth (1903-1975)


Dame Barbara Hepworth (1903-1975)
signed and dated 'Barbara Hepworth 1946' (lower right), signed again, titled and dated again 'Barbara Hepworth, Chord, 1946' (on card laid on the reverse), dedicated 'for Dudley and Edna/from Barbara/Dec 1952' (on the reverse) and dedicated 'for Dudley and Edna/from Barbara Dec. 15 1952/with appreciation of our collaboration on the film' (on card laid on the reverse)
gouache and pencil on paper, laid on card
10½ x 18 in. (26.7 x 45.8 cm.)
A gift from the artist to Mr and Mrs D.S. Ashton.
with Lefevre Gallery, London.
with Marlborough Fine Art, London.
Anonymous sale; Sotheby’s, London, 25 June 1975, lot 173A.
Anonymous sale; Sotheby's, New York, 11 February 2004, lot 54.
with Richard Green, London, where purchased by the present owner in June 2004.
London, Lefevre Gallery, Barbara Hepworth: Sculpture and Drawings, October 1946, no. 29.
London, St George's Gallery, The New Generation, A Series of Exhibitions of Modern Painters, First Exhibition British Artists, May 1947, no. 15.
Wakefield, City Art Gallery, Fourteenth West Riding Artists' Exhibition, 1947-1948.
St Ives, Penwith Gallery, Penwith Society, Festival of Britain, May - September 1951, number untraced.
London, Whitechapel Gallery, Barbara Hepworth: a retrospective exhibition of carvings and drawings from 1927 to 1954, April - June 1954, no. 80.
Special notice

Artist's Resale Right ("Droit de Suite"). Artist's Resale Right Regulations 2006 apply to this lot, the buyer agrees to pay us an amount equal to the resale royalty provided for in those Regulations, and we undertake to the buyer to pay such amount to the artist's collection agent.

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Anne Haasjes
Anne Haasjes

Lot Essay

Delicately constructed, Chord is an example of the rare, entrancing drawings made by the sculptress Barbara Hepworth. Executed in 1946, Chord – evoking ideas of composition and harmony with its title – appears as a play of equilibrium between tense straight lines and curved surfaces. The forms, which develop in a space that is abstract and purely geometrical, seem to be fixed in a precarious status of balance, ready to swing back into movement. Executed in pencil on paper, Chord is sparsely coloured, echoing in its restraint Hepworth’s approach to colour in her sculpture.

Chord was created following a period of intense draughtsmanship in Hepworth’s career. With the beginning of the Second World War, Hepworth and Nicholson had settled near St Ives, providing their young family with a safer place to live. In those unsettled days, however, Hepworth was forced to interrupt her sculpture, thus resorting to drawing. Remembering the early 1940s, Hepworth would describe: ‘In the late evenings, and during the night I did innumerable drawings in gouache and pencil – all of them abstract, and all of them my own way of exploring the particular tension and relationship of form and colour which were to occupy me in sculpture the later years of the war’ (quoted in H. Read, (ed.), Barbara Hepworth: Carvings and Drawings, London, 1952, n.p.). In 1943, in fact, Hepworth started carving again, exploring in sculpture what she had studied in her 1940-42 drawings. Drawings such as Chord, executed in 1946, provided further means of exploring new sculptural forms and expanding the research begun at the outbreak of the war. Instead of being self-contained, the forms explored in this later group of drawings expand to the exterior, perusing the boundaries between space and object, surface and surroundings. In their pure geometry and dynamic developing, they also pay homage to Hepworth’s friend and artist Naum Gabo, who had also lived in St Ives in the 1940s.

Speaking of the drawing executed after the Second World War, Hepworth explained: ‘Abstract drawing has always been for me a particularly exciting adventure. First there is only one’s mood; then the surface takes one’s mood in colour and texture; then a line or curve which, made with a pencil on the hard surface of many coats of oil or gouache, has a particular kind of “bite” rather like incising on slate; then one is lost in a new world of a thousand possibilities because the next line in association with the first will have a compulsion about it which will carry one forward into completely unknown territory. […] Suddenly before one’s eyes is a new form which, from the sculptor’s point of view, free as it is from the problems of solid material, can be deepened or extended, twisted or flattened, tightened and hardened according to one’s will, as one imbues it with its own special life. The whole process is opposite to that of drawing from life’ (quoted in ibid., n.p.).

In 1952, Hepworth offered Chord to Dudley Shaw Ashton and his wife Edna in a gesture of gratitude. The work bears the inscription: ‘for Dudley and Edna from Barbara Dec. 15 1952 with appreciation of our collaboration on the film’. The dedication refers to the film Figure in Landscape, which Ashton had dedicated to Hepworth and her work, accompanied by music by the South African-British composer Priaulx Rainier and released in 1953.

We are very grateful to Dr Sophie Bowness for her assistance in providing information for preparing this catalogue entry. Dr Sophie Bowness is preparing the revised catalogue raisonné of Hepworth's sculpture.

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