Dame Barbara Hepworth (1903-1975)
Artist's Resale Right ("Droit de Suite"). Artist's… Read more PROPERTY FROM THE ESTATE OF THE LATE JAMES O. FAIRFAX, A.C.
Dame Barbara Hepworth (1903-1975)

Duo-Surgeon and Sister

Details
Dame Barbara Hepworth (1903-1975)
Duo-Surgeon and Sister
signed and dated 'Barbara Hepworth 1948' (lower right), signed and dated twice and inscribed again 'Barbara Hepworth/"Duo-surgeon & Sister"/1948/Barbara Hepworth/1948" (on the reverse)
oil and pencil on board
15 7/8 x 13 7/8 in. (40.4 x 35.2 cm.)
Provenance
Private collection, USA, October 1949.
Anonymous sale; Christie's, New York, 15 November 1990, lot 185.
with Browse & Darby, where purchased by the present owner, 1991.
Literature
Exhibition catalogue, Barbara Hepworth The Hospital Drawings, Wakefield, Hepworth Wakefield, 2012, pp. 78, 125, exhibition not numbered, as 'Duo (Surgeon and Sister)', illustrated.
Exhibited
New York, Durlacher Brothers Gallery, Barbara Hepworth, October 1949, no. 9, as 'Duo'.
Cincinnati, Cincinnati Art Museum, 6 English moderns: Piper, Sutherland, Hepworth, Tunnard, Moore, Nicholson, February 1950, ex-catalogue.
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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Louise Simpson

Lot Essay

‘I happened to look up into the great lamp above and in the dark hemisphere projecting in the centre was reflected the whole scene – wonderfully distorted in perspective and wholly unrecognisable in a realistic sense and yet giving in the whole unity and purpose in a completely poetic way – the periphery of heads with arms and hands radiating far away in great depth to the centre which was the wound – so that when I looked back at the group in front of me one felt all the more keenly the terrific sculptural idea in all the figures in the cubic space of the theatre and I felt inside each of them’ (Barbara Hepworth letter to Herbert Read, 6 March 1948, Herbert Read Archive, University of Victoria, British Columbia).

Duo-Surgeon and Sister is one of a series of compositions Hepworth executed in the late 1940s that have come to be known as the 'Hospital Drawings’. In 1943 Hepworth’s daughter Sarah underwent surgery and her orthopaedic surgeon Norman Capener, an amateur sculptor, invited Hepworth to observe an operation. In 1947, Hepworth witnessed her first surgery, a hip replacement, and for three years after this outing she was permitted to work in operating theatres in London and in the West Country, sketching in a small notepad and later transferring her observations into larger scale drawings. In 1949 she met a second surgeon and amateur sculptor Edward Rodney Garnett Passe who invited her to witness further surgeries and continue this now revered series.

Observing these operations had a profound effect on Hepworth. She compared the movement and harmony of surgeons to that of an orchestra, ballet dancers and Olympians. She explained 'I expected I should dislike it; but from the moment when I entered the operating theatre I became completely absorbed by two things: first, the extraordinary beauty of purpose and co-ordination between human beings all dedicated to the saving of life, and the way that unity of idea and purpose dictated a perfection of concentration, movement and gesture; and secondly by the way this special grace (grace of mind and body) induced a spontaneous space composition, an articulated and animated kind of abstract sculpture very close to what I had been seeking in my own work' (B. Hepworth, quoted in H. Read, Barbara Hepworth: Carvings and Drawings, London, 1952, opp. pl. 92).

In Duo-Surgeon and Sister this perception of beauty and purpose is clearly portrayed. The shoulders of the surgeons and their heavily worked eyes surround and call attention to the highly modelled yet delicate hands that seem to weave and turn. Although the scalpels incision is at the centre of the composition, the graphic imagery of the invasive surgery is far outweighed by the harmonious composition of the attendees and the soft blue hues framing them. Their hands and the synchronised action of each is clearly the main intrigue of the scene. As Hepworth noted there is a clear comparison in the movement and space that she witnessed in the theatre and that of her own portrayal of abstract forms - like so many of her sculptures, fluid concentric circles can be seen to evolve within and a larger geometric shape.

J.P. Hodin observes, 'It is of interest to note the tension between these representational drawings and the abstract sculptures produced at the same time. We feel that here is the key to the understanding of her working method, which is that of a constant interchange of outward observation and inner reflection' (J.P. Hodin, Barbara Hepworth, Neuchâtel, 1961, p. 21).

When looking at this series of drawings it is clear that Hepworth identifies with the role of the orthopaedic surgeon; their tools are similar to those used to work with stone and one could even compare the careful and precise suturing to the precision and balance seen in Hepworth’s own string pieces. She said, of observing operations in a lecture to surgeons in Exeter, circa 1953, 'It ratified, moreover, my previous ideas as a sculptor, of the basic principles of abstract composition, rhythm, poise, and equilibrium which is inherent in human activity when the mind wholly governs the body for the fulfilment of an unselfish end' (B. Hepworth, quoted in S. Bowness (ed.), Barbara Hepworth: Writings and Conversations, London, 2015, p. 85).

Dr. Sophie Bowness is preparing the revised catalogue raisonné of Hepworth’s paintings and drawings.

James Oswald Fairfax, A.C. (1933-2017) was a passionate and discerning connoisseur whose interest in the fine and decorative arts spanned eras, cultures and continents. The art he collected over the years reflects both his eye for beauty and also his love of travel, and was acquired to adorn the beautiful homes that he created for himself both in Australia and the United Kingdom.

The great-grandson of the founder of the Sydney Morning Herald and Chairman, from 1977 to 1987, of publishers John Fairfax Ltd., James was educated in Sydney, Melbourne and then at Balliol College, Oxford. His kindness and generosity extended to artists, collectors and amateurs, and not least to public institutions: among his many generous bequests to Australian galleries, were important works by Rubens, Ingres, Canaletto and Watteau, given to the Art Gallery of New South Wales; the National Gallery of Australia; the National Gallery of Victoria; Gallery of Modern Art, Brisbane and the Art Gallery of South Australia, ensuring that his taste will be shared with a wide public. Christie’s is delighted to be offering works from this fascinating and varied collection in a series of sales in London.

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