A return to bronze casting in 1956 gave Hepworth the opportunity to develop her approach to sculpture with newfound significance: conceiving more complex forms of varying mass, space and light in ways that would not have been possible with earlier stone and wood carving. Despite this shift in material, Hepworth remained committed to the act of sculpting by hand, shaping plaster into naturalistic sinuous forms evocative of the St Ives wildlife and landscape that so famously inspired her. She reflected, 'It took me nearly thirty years to find a way of using it …I found the most intense pleasure in this new adventure in material ... I had always hated clay and never previously liked any bronze casts of forms modelled in clay. But now I felt free to enjoy the making of the armature. I could blend it with my carving technique – by building up the plaster of Paris and then cutting it down as though carving …By treating the plaster as if it was oil paint with large flat spatulae, I built surfaces which I could then cut down when hard. This method gave me the same feeling of personal surfaces as when I prepare the boards on which I draw and paint’ (B. Hepworth quoted in S. Bowness (ed.), Barbara Hepworth: Writings and Conversations, London, 2015, pp. 158-59).
It is apt, given Hepworth’s fondness of gardening and nature, that the present work’s title refers to a botanical term in which clusters of buds grow together in a particular symmetrical manner. With its deep arc echoing Curved Form (Trevalgan) - one of Hepworth’s first works cast in bronze during this period - Corymb’s small scale and additional coiled, central form amplifies dynamism and tension. Each plane surges around one another as if alive, blooming open with a wonderful serenity. Delicate metal rods at the centre of Corymb creates a further sense of balance, reminiscent of Hepworth’s early stringed sculptures intended to animate space and connect both figure and landscape together in a physical sense.
The first cast of the present work’s edition is displayed in the artist's Trewin Studio garden, St Ives, on loan from the Barbara Hepworth Estate.
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.