Dame Barbara Hepworth (1903-1975)
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Dame Barbara Hepworth (1903-1975)

Sea Form (Porthmeor)

Dame Barbara Hepworth (1903-1975)
Sea Form (Porthmeor)
numbered '5/7' (on the base)
bronze with a dark green patina
44¾ in. (113.7 cm.)
Conceived in 1958 and cast in an edition of 7.
Laing Galleries, Toronto, August 1960, where purchased by the present owner.
J.P. Hodin, Barbara Hepworth, London, 1961, p. 170, no. 249, another cast illustrated.
Exhibition catalogue, Barbara Hepworth An Exhibition of Sculpture from 1952-1962, London, Whitechapel, 1962, p. 7.
M. Shepherd, Barbara Hepworth, London, 1963, p. 39, pl. 13, another cast illustrated.
Tate Gallery Report 1967-8, 1968, p. 63.
A. Hammacher, Barbara Hepworth, London, 1968, pp. 138, 152, 167, pl. 116, another cast illustrated.
B. Hepworth, A Pictorial Autobiography, 1970, pp. 76, 77, another cast illustrated.
H.H. Arnason, A History of Modern Art, 1977, p. 547, pl. 950, another cast illlustrated.
D.F. Jenkins, Barbara Hepworth: A Guide to the Tate Gallery Collection at London and St Ives, Cornwall, London, 1982, p. 17, 32, another cast illustrated.
P. Curtis, Modern British Sculpture from the Collection, Tate Gallery Liverpool, 1988, p. 54, another cast illustrated.
A.G. Wilkinson, Cornwall and the Sculpture of Landscape: 1939-1975, exhibition catalogue, Liverpool, Tate Gallery, Barbara Hepworth: A Retrospective, 1994, p. 104.
S. Festing, Barbara Hepworth: A Life of Forms, Harmondsworth, 1995, p. 226.
D. Thistlewood (ed.), Barbara Hepworth Reconsidered, Liverpool, 1996, C. Doherty, Re-reading the Work of Barbara Hepworth in the Light of Debates on 'the Feminine'; and E.E. Roberts, Barbara Hepworth Speculatively Perceived within an International Context, p. 195.
A. Grieve, The Sculpture of Robert Adams, London, 1992, p. 123.
P. Curtis, St Ives Artists: Barbara Hepworth, London, 1998, p. 40. M. Gale and C. Stephens, Barbara Hepworth Works in the Tate Gallery Collection and the Barbara Hepworth Museum St Ives, London, 1999, no. 47, pp. 187-88, another cast illustrated.
Antwerp, Middelheim Park, Fifth Biennale voor Beeldhouwkunst, May - September 1959, no. 50, another cast.
New York, Galerie Chalette, Hepworth, October - November 1959, no. 26, another cast.
Toronto, Laing Galleries, Sculpture: Ten Modern Masters, November 1959, no. 5.
São Paolo, V Bienal do Museo de Arte Moderna São Paolo, Paintings by Francis Bacon, Paintings & Etchings by S.W. Hayter, Sculpture and Drawings by Barbara Hepworth, September - December 1959, no. 20, another cast.
British Council, South American Tour, Barbara Hepworth, 1960, no. 19, another cast: this exhibition travelled to Montevideo, Comisión Nacional de Bellas Artes, April - May 1960; Buenos Aires, Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes, May - June; Santiago, Instituto de Arte Moderno, September - October; Chile, Museo de Bellas Artes, Vina del Mar, October; and Caracas, Museo de Bellas Artes, November.
Rotterdam, Museum Boymans-van Beuningen, Beeldententoonstelling Floriade, March - September 1960, no. 42, another cast.
Arts Council, Contemporary British Sculpture, 1960, no. 16, another cast: this exhibition travelled to Birmingham, Cannon Hill Park, May; Barnsley, Cannon Hall, May - June; Manchester, Ashburne Hall, June - July; Stratford-on-Avon, Avonbank Gardens, July - August; Edinburgh, Inverleith House, August - September; and Cheltenham, Festival of Art and Literature, September - October.
Zurich, Galerie Charles Lienhard, Barbara Hepworth, October 1960, no. 9, another cast.
London, Gimpel Fils, Barbara Hepworth, May - June 1961, no. 21, another cast.
St Ives, Penwith Society of Arts, Summer Exhibition, 1961, no. 123, another cast.
British Council, Recent British Sculpture: Roberts Adams, Kenneth Armitage, Reg Butler, Lynn Chadwick, Hubert Dalwood, Barbara Hepworth, Bernard Meadows, Henry Moore, Eduardo Paolozzi, 1961-64, no. 34, another cast: this exhibition travelled to Ottawa, National Gallery of Canada, April - June 1961; Montreal, Museum of Fine Arts, August - September; Winnipeg, Art Gallery, September - October; Regina College, Norman Mckenzie Art Gallery, November; Toronto, Art Gallery, January - February 1962; London, Ontario, Public Library and Art Museum, February - March; Vacouver, Art Gallery, March - April; Auckland, Institute and Museum, July; Wellington, Dominion Museum, August - September; Dunedin, Otago Museum, October; Christchurch, Canterbury Museum, November - December; Perth, Western Australia Museum, January - February 1963; Melbourne, National Gallery of Victoria, July - August; Sydney, Art Gallery of New South Wales, September - October; Brisbane, Queensland Art Gallery, November - December; Newcastle, War Memorial Cultural Centre, January 1964; Canberra, Albert Hall, February; Tokyo, Bridgestone Art Gallery, and other Japanese venues, including Kyoto, Museum of Modern Art, July - August; and Hong Kong, City Hall and Art Gallery, August - September 1964.
London, Whitechapel Art Gallery, Barbara Hepworth: An Exhibition of Sculpture from 1952-62, May - June 1962, no. 38, another cast.
New York, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, Modern Sculpture from the Joseph H. Hirshhorn Collection, October 1962 - January 1963, no. 207, another cast.
London, Tate Gallery, Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation Exhibition, 54:64: Painting and Sculpture of a Decade, April - June 1964, no. 78, another cast.
Toronto, Art Gallery, Barbara Hepworth, November 1964, no. 5, another cast.
British Council, Lalit Kala Akademi tour of India, 1965, no. 25, another cast: this exhibition travelled to Delhi, Calcutta, Madras and Bombay.
British Council, European Tour, Barbara Hepworth, 1964-66: this exhibition travelled to Copenhagen, Kunstforeningen, September - October 1964, no. 15, another cast; Stockholm, Moderna Museet, November - December, no. 16, another cast; Helsinki, Ateneum, January - February 1965, no. 15, another cast; Oslo, Utstilling Kunstnernes Hus, March, no. 15, another cast; Otterlo, Rietveld Pavilion, Rijksmuseum Kroller-Muller, May - July, no. 20, another cast; Basel, Kunshalle, September - October, no. 13, another cast; Turin, Civica d'Arte Moderna, October - November, no. 17, another cast; Karlsruhe, Badischer Kunstverein, February - March 1966, no. 13, another cast; Essen, Museum Folkwang, April - June, no. 13, another cast.
Londonderry, Brooke Park Gallery, British Sculpture 1952-62, April 1967, no. 23, another cast: this exhibition travelled to Belfast, Ulster Museum, May - June.
British Council, Britisk Skulptur 1952-62, 1967, no. 19, another cast: this exhibition travelled to Stavanger, September; Bergen, September - October; Trondheim, October - November and Tromso.
London, Tate Gallery, Barbara Hepworth, April - May 1968, no. 93, another cast.
British Council, Eight British Sculptors, Tour of the United Arab Republic, 1969, no. 19, another cast.
British Council, Yedi Ingiliz Heykeltrasi (Seven British Sculptors): Robert Adams, Kenneth Armitage, Lynn Chadwick, Hubert Dalwood, Barbara Hepworth, Bernard Meadows, Henry Moore, Turco-British Association tour, 1970, no. 19, another cast.
Toronto, National Art Gallery of Ontario, A Tribute to Samuel J. Zacks from the Same & Ayala Zacks Collection, May - June 1971, no. 84, another cast: this exhibition travelled to Ottawa, National Gallery of Canada, August 1971.
Japan, Hakone Open Air Museum, Barbara Hepworth, June - September 1970, no. 8, another cast.
Brussels, Palais des Beaux Arts, Henry Moore to Gilbert and George: Modern British Art from the Tate Gallery, September - November 1973, no. 49, another cast.
Austin, Texas, Lyndon Baines Johnson Library, Sculptors and their Drawings: Selections from the Hirshhorn Museum Collection, October 1974 - January 1975, another cast, not numbered.
Washington, D.C., Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Smithsonian Institution, Barbara Hepworth from the Museum Collection, April - July 1981, another cast, no catalogue produced.
London, Tate Gallery, St Ives: Twenty Five Years of Painting, Sculpture and Pottery, February - March 1985, no. 135, another cast. London, Royal Academy, British Art in the Twentieth Century: The Modern Movement, January - April 1987, no. 152, another cast.
Washington D.C., Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Smithsonian Institution, Comparisons: An Exercise in Looking, December 1990 - April 1991, another cast, no number.
Canada, Barbara Hepworth: The Art Gallery of Ontario Collection, 1991-2, no. 6, another cast: this exhibition travelled to Sault Ste. Maria, Art Gallery of Algoma, August - September 1991; Thunder Bay, Art Gallery, October - November; Thames Art Gallery, Chatham Cultural Centre, December 1991 - January 1992; St. Catherine's, Rodman Hall Arts Centre, February - March; and Cobourg, Art Gallery of Northumberland, April - May 1992.
Liverpool, Tate Gallery, Barbara Hepworth: A Retrospective, September - December 1994, no. 58, another cast: this exhibition travelled to New Haven, Yale Center for British Art, February - April 1995, and Toronto, Art Gallery of Ontario, May - August 1995.
St Ives, Tate, Porthmeor Beach: A Century of Images, April - October 1995, another cast, no number.
Nancy, Musée des Beaux-Arts, Barbara Hepworth, January - March 2006, no. 36, another cast.
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Lot Essay

Discussing the present work, Dr. Matthew Gale and Dr. Chris Stephens comment (op. cit., pp. 187-9): 'The textures of Barbara Hepworth's bronzes of 1958 are notably varied between the heavy encrustation of Garden Sculpture (Model for Meridian) (see lot 169) and the density of Torso II (Torcello). On the whole, the surface of Sea Form (Porthmeor) was smoothly worked in keeping with the stretched organic form. There are rough areas around the enclosing sides, but the folded-over lip-like forms have been burnished to shiny edges. This may have been exaggerated by handling or wear. In any case, it serves to enhance the contrast between the drier inner surface and seeming elasticity of the peripheries.

The sculpture was made in the way established in Hepworth's studio by this time. An armature of expanded aluminium was built to take the plaster specifically for bronze casting. The organic quality of Sea Form (Porthmeor) shows how far Hepworth and her assistants were able to develop the process away from the original metal sheet still evident in Curved Form (Trevalgan). The malleability of the aluminium is seen in the turned-over edges and puncturing with holes. The function of the strong rising diagonal within the form is not clear; it seems likely to be a welding joint, indicating that the sculpture was cast in two parts.

The casting was underway at the Art Bronze Foundry, Fulham, in early 1959. The unusual thickness of the bronze - c. 6 mm (¼ in.) - may indicate that there were problems with the process. The base is rather thinner, and the two are held together by bolts through a central bronze bar [ ...]. It is possible that the patination of the bronze was carried out at the studio. It was treated so that it was almost black both inside and on the back, and then covered with energetic dappling in green and white. The effect is crusty and contrasts with the smoothness of the sculpture's edges. The original white plaster, which is visible in the photograph of the sculptor's upstairs studio in January 1959 was painted with a broken green, presumably as a preliminary to the patination. The plaster was shown at the St Ives Guildhall when the sculptor received the Freedom of the Borough in 1968 and is now one of several such preparatory pieces on display at the Barbara Hepworth Museum [St Ives].

In combination with the form and patination, the title may identify the sculpture as a response to Porthmeor Beach in St Ives. Although Hepworth's studio turns towards the harbour rather than this Atlantic coast, Porthmeor was the site of artists' studios, including those occupied by Ben Nicholson and Terry Frost. To Herbert Read the sculptor described the 'extraordinary feeling being posed above the changing calligraphy of tide & water movement, sand & wind movement & the pattern of men's & birds' feet'. It has been observed that the sculpture 'in part based on her observation of breaking waves, and the pattern left on the beach by waves and tides'. In his assessment, Michael Shepherd held back from a literal equation between the surf and the form of the sculpture, writing that with 'its lipped edges, its amoebic or cellular organic forms, and its white-plastered metal as if salted from long immersion in seawater, [it] seems to belong to the living world of the sea'. However, Hepworth herself appeared to condone the association: 'I had ... become bewitched by the Atlantic beach. The form I call Porthmeor is the ebb and flow of the Atlantic'.

In laying stress on tidal movement, Hepworth hinted at her wider view of sculpture expressing the experience of being within the landscape. The processes of nature were concerns shared with other artists working in St Ives. They gave impetus, for instance, to Terry Frost's abstractions of movement on water, such as Green, Black and White Movement, 1951, and Bryan Wynter's more cosmic works, such as Mars Ascends, 1956. Hepworth's Sea Form (Porthmeor) emerges from a similar focus on cyclical events. When she reproduced the sculpture in her Pictoral Autobiography it was placed opposite her acknowledgement of a shared endeavour in St Ives with Frost and Wynter, as well as Denis Mitchell and Patrick Heron; it was also juxtaposed with a photograph of Bernard Leach's hand throwing a pot. This indicates that the formal qualities of Sea Form (Porthmeor) may also be seen in a wider context of contemporary visual culture, especially within design in the late 1950s; comparisons may be drawn with the work of other studio potters, such as James Tower, who worked with asymmetric forms, or Hans Coper, who used heavily textured surfaces. Perhaps because of this contemporary style, Sea Form (Porthmeor) was very widely exhibited. A cast (6/7) was acquired by the British Council in 1961, shortly after it was included in the successful São Paolo Bienal display (1959) and subsequent South American tour. Other casts are in the Hirshhorn Museum, Smithsonian Institution, Washington (2/7), Yale University Art Gallery (1/7), the Art Gallery of Ontario (3/7), and the Gemeentemuseum in The Hague (7/7). [Cast (4/7) is in the collection of the Tate, London, and the remaining cast (5/7) is the present work].

Confrontation with the sea was a theme implied in Hepworth's contemporary Torso group and had a long pedigree in the history of painting back to Gustave Courbet and Caspar David Friedrich. However, Claire Doherty has specifically refuted these literal connections, writing of Sea Form (Porthmeor): 'the allusions to the landscape of St Ives are neither delicate or romantic, but reveal a fascination with the re-creation of a natural form in sculpture. The viewer is provoked to question: What relationships are initiated in the spaces between the solid form? What meanings are generated when a natural form is imitated by the mark of the chisel or cast in bronze?'.

Instead, asserting that the form encourages an exploration which 'is never prescribed, but variable, motivated and intrigued'. Doherty posited Hepworth's work as an example of a gendered 'sculpture féminine'. This was exemplified by such qualities as 'the play on notions of nature and the natural, the opening up of spaces between solid forms, the deconstruction of stability''.

In 1963 Hepworth acquired a studio flat overlooking Porthmeor beach, where she particularly enjoyed working on drawings and paintings.

This is the only cast in the edition of seven that remains in a private collection, and it has been with the single owner since 1960. The six other casts are in public ownership, and many were early purchases by these institutions (it was a great favourite) - for example The Hague bought theirs in 1960, The British Council and Yale in 1961 - and Sea Form (Porthmeor) has been included in many of the major Hepworth exhibitions and in group shows, reflecting its importance in her work. S.B.

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