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Two curved forms on a grey ground

Two curved forms on a grey ground
signed and dated 'Barbara Hepworth/1947' (lower right)
pencil and oil on canvas laid on board
12 x 15 7⁄8 in. (30.5 x 40.6 cm.)
Painted in 1947.
This work is recorded as D 125.
with Martha Jackson Gallery, New York.
Sam and Ayala Zacks, Toronto.
Their sale; Auction for the Israel Relief Fund, Royal Alexandra Theatre, Toronto, 27 June 1967, lot 28, where purchased by Anne L. Mirvish, and by descent to the previous owner.
Anonymous sale; Christie's, London, 26 June 2015, lot 164, where purchased by the present owner.
H. Read (intro.), Barbara Hepworth: Carvings and Drawings, London, 1952, n.p., no. 94b, illustrated.
London, Lefevre Gallery, Paintings by Barbara Hepworth: Paintings by L.S. Lowry, April 1948, probably no. 60, as 'Two sculptures round and long'.
London, Whitechapel Art Gallery, Barbara Hepworth: A Retrospective Exhibition of Carvings and Drawings from 1927 to 1954, April - June 1954, no. 105.
Minneapolis, Walker Art Center, Barbara Hepworth: Carvings and Drawings 1937-1954, April - May 1955, no. 19: this exhibition travelled to Nebraska, University of Nebraska Art Galleries, June - August 1955; San Francisco, Museum of Art, September - October 1955; Buffalo, Albright Art Gallery, November - December 1955; Toronto, Art Gallery, January - February 1956; Montreal, Museum of Fine Arts, March 1956; Baltimore, Museum of Art, April - June 1956; and New York, Martha Jackson Gallery, December 1956 - January 1957.
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

‘Sculpture born in the disguise of two dimensions’ was how Hepworth described her drawings to the art historian E.H. Ramsden in 1943 (B. Hepworth, quoted in A. Wilkinson, The Drawings of Barbara Hepworth, Farnham, 2015, p. 69). Rarely plans or representations of sculptures – these were scribbled ‘on bits of scrap paper or cigarette boxes’ – her drawings were an explorative practice, a search for rhythms, curves and forms that resonate through subsequent sculptures. In Two curved forms on a grey ground a fine pencil line swings across the surface in rhythmic arcs, overlapping and intersecting to form elliptical shapes in between.  In the upper form two sections are coloured in bright yellow and blue, becoming focal points in the picture, while a fan of lines resembling her stringed sculptures twist across the right hand side of the form.

The present work was executed in 1946, in the midst of Hepworth’s most prolific decade of drawing. With materials for carving difficult to obtain in the early years of the war and little space and time with four young children, Hepworth turned to drawing with renewed focus, which gathered momentum as the decade progressed. Between 1940-1942, Hepworth made a remarkable series of abstract drawings, depicting crystalline forms composed of intersecting lines, which over the 1940s evolved into the more organic forms evident in the present work.

Two curved forms on a grey ground is indicative of Hepworth’s adaption of earlier abstract theory and constructivist principles to accommodate her response to landscape, which became a central theme of her practice from this time. When Hepworth arrived in Carbis Bay, bordering St Ives in West Cornwall with Ben Nicholson in 1939, she had thus far pioneered a sculptural practice influenced by Constructivism and the abstraction of the Parisian avant-garde. The present drawing is comparable to the Constructivist sculptures of Naum Gabo, who lived close to Nicholson and Hepworth in Cornwall, notably Construction in space with crystalline centre, which Hepworth photographed overlooking the Bay of St Ives. Meanwhile her use of colour recalls Piet Mondrian’s gridded compositions, with whom Hepworth again enjoyed an engaging discourse. In 1942, she and Nicholson moved into a house high on the clifftop of Carbis Bay, and her work increasingly echoed a growing engagement with landscape. Two curved forms on a grey ground integrates constructivist ideals with an organic response to landscape, reflected in seminal carvings of this time such as Pelagos, 1946 (Tate), and Pendour, 1947, which shares a resemblance to the elongated forms of the present work. The same year Hepworth made this drawing, she explained:

‘I have gained great inspiration from the Cornish land- and sea-scape, the horizontal line of the sea and the quality of light and colour which reminds me of the Mediterranean light and colour which so excites one’s sense of form; and first and last there is the human figure which in the country becomes a free and moving part of a great whole. This relationship between figure and landscape is very important to me. I can not feel it in a city’ (B. Hepworth, quoted in A. Wilkinson, op. cit. p. 58).

We are grateful to Dr Sophie Bowness and Jenna Lundin Aral for their assistance with the cataloguing apparatus for this work. Dr Sophie Bowness and Jenna Lundin Aral are preparing the revised catalogue raisonné of Hepworth’s paintings.

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