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Mother and Child

Mother and Child
signed with initials, numbered and stamped with foundry mark 'B.H./ 9⁄9' (on the underside)
polished bronze, on a black painted wooden base
4 1⁄2 in. (11.4 cm.)
Conceived in ironstone in 1934 and cast by Morris Singer, London, in 1972.
This work is recorded as BH558.
with William Darby, London.
Steve Tokaruk, London, where acquired by the previous owner in April 1975.
Their sale; Sotheby's, London, 12 June 2018, lot 506, where purchased by the present owner.
J.P. Hodin, Barbara Hepworth, Lausanne, 1961, p. 163, no. 60.
Exhibition catalogue, Barbara Hepworth 1903-1975, London, William Darby, 1975, n.p., no. 2, another cast illustrated.
London, William Darby, Barbara Hepworth 1903-1975, November 1975, no. 2, another cast exhibited.
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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Elizabeth Comba
Elizabeth Comba Specialist

Lot Essay

Barbara Hepworth carved several Mother and Child sculptures in 1934 when she was pregnant, at the time unknowingly, with triplets. She carved sensuous, biomorphic forms with figurative allusions, working on the cusp of abstraction. Later, she described these works as ‘turbulent […] but I stand by them. They mattered a lot emotionally and sculpturally’ (B. Hepworth, quoted in E. Clayton, Barbara Hepworth: Art & Life, London 2021, p.68).

The present work follows the disc-like form of ironstone, so named for its colour, that Hepworth found littering the beaches of Happisburgh in Norfolk, where she holidayed in the early 1930s with her husband John Skeaping, Henry and Irina Moore, Ivon Hitchens and Ben Nicholson. Skeaping, Moore and Hepworth would comb the beaches for stones to ship back to London, and the form of the stone itself, polished and rounded by the sea, occasionally with holes going right through, was an important inspiration.

In 1931 Hepworth pierced her first sculpture, a development of great significance that represented a radical contribution to the canon of abstract art. Sculpture could create space rather than only be a form existing in space, and this discovery arguably shaped the direction of her work from this point onwards. It reappears in the present work with a poetical ambiguity, perhaps delineating a mother’s arm reaching towards her child, or an absence or opening within the figure.

It was at the time of her visits to Norfolk and the first pierced form that Hepworth began a relationship with Nicholson. By 1934 they were living and working together in Hampstead and she was pregnant with triplets, born in October that year. Mother and Child was conceived in a single piece of stone, the figures merged together and presented in their most essential form. Hepworth evokes remarkable tension and tenderness in the stone, and later in bronze. An incised circle and marks suggest the faces of the mother and child but it hinges on abstraction, echoing the eroded forms of pebbles and stones she found on the beach at Happisburgh. Cast in bronze and polished to a bright gold, it takes on a new material resonance.

After she began working with bronze in the 1950s, Hepworth often returned to earlier carvings: as she wrote in 1964, ‘I have found some considerable pleasure in re-interpreting forms originally carved, and which in bronze, by greater attenuation, can give new aspect to certain themes’ (B. Hepworth, quoted in E. Clayton, op. cit. 198).

We are grateful to Dr Sophie Bowness for her assistance with the cataloguing apparatus for this work. Dr Sophie Bowness is preparing the revised catalogue raisonné of Hepworth’s sculpture.

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