Dame Barbara Hepworth (1903-1975)
Artist's Resale Right ("Droit de Suite"). Artist's… Read more PROPERTY FROM A PRIVATE LONDON COLLECTION
Dame Barbara Hepworth (1903-1975)

Model for sculpture for Waterloo Bridge

Dame Barbara Hepworth (1903-1975)
Model for sculpture for Waterloo Bridge
inscribed indistinctly (on the underside)
Portland stone, unique
12 1/8 x 16 5/8 x 5 3/8 in. (30.9 x 42.2 x 13.7 cm.)
Carved in 1947. This work will be recorded as BH 144 in the revised catalogue raisonné by Dr Sophie Bowness.
A gift from the artist to Mr and Mrs H.C. Gilbert, St Ives.
with Hazlitt Holland-Hibbert, London, where purchased by the present owner.
J.P. Hodin, Barbara Hepworth, London, 1961, p. 166, no.
M. Gale and C. Stephens, Barbara Hepworth Works in the Tate Gallery Collection and the Barbara Hepworth Museum St. Ives, London, 1999, p. 105, illustrated.
A.R. Graves, 'Barbara Hepworths Designs for Sculpture on Waterloo Bridge', Burlington Magazine, no. 1161, London, December 1999, pp. 753-756, no. 54, illustrated.
Wakefield, City Art Gallery, Barbara Hepworth: sculpture and drawings, May - July 1951, no. 31: this exhibition travelled to York, City Art Gallery, July - August 1951; and Manchester, City Art Gallery, September - October 1951.
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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Lot Essay

The unique Model for Sculpture for Waterloo Bridge, one of only five scale carved sculptures made for the unrealised commission for Waterloo Bridge in 1947, is important in the canon of Hepworth's work. Coming at a time when Hepworth was exploring the production of sculpture on a more monumental scale, the wonderfully fluid and organic form demonstrates both the influences of the sea, St. Ives and her figurative work. As Hepworth's first large public sculpture project, its importance cannot be underestimated.

In 1946, Barbara Hepworth was invited by the London County Council to enter the competition to design four sculptures for the new Waterloo Bridge in London. She was invited to participate along with five other major British sculptors; Henry Moore, Sir Jacob Epstein, Frank Dobson, Eric Kennington and Sir Charles Wheeler. All but Hepworth had experience of comparable monumental commissions. It was her first participation in the public sculpture boom that followed the Second World War. Whilst none of the competitors' proposals was realised, her inclusion among the group of renowned British sculptors reflected her growing reputation and served to further raise her public profile.

Plans for the reconstruction of the bridge were initiated in 1923 when John Rennie's original showed signs of major structural weakness. The demands of growing road and river traffic forced the Council to consider various proposals for a replacement, and to demolish the old crossing. A five-span bridge designed by renowned architect Sir Giles Gilbert Scott was chosen, and despite the outbreak of war, the new bridge was in full use by November 1944. Typically for many major architectural schemes of the inter-war years, Scott's original design made provision for sculptures: the initial plan was that the masonry blocks at either end of the bridge would support four figure groups. The winning design would be chosen by three assessors: Scott, the sculptor Sir William Reid Dick and Sir Philip Hendy, Director of the National Gallery.

The 'figure groups' had to be of Portland stone, in keeping with their pedestals. Furthermore, the competitors were 'required to submit a model to a scale of 1:8 of one of the groups, and a drawing of each of the other three groups to the same scale'. The three drawings which Hepworth submitted are now in the Tate collection, London. She also carved four small maquettes in Portland stone (BH 144 A, B, C, D). The smaller maquettes are in the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Smithsonian Institution, Washington D.C.; Tate collection, London, and two remain in private collections.

Despite their site-specificity, the present work is consistent with Hepworth's carvings of the period. Beginning in the early 1930s, Hepworth's sculpture developed steadily towards organic, abstracted shapes with a powerful sense of being. Hepworth had moved to Cornwall from London just before the outbreak of the war in 1939, with her husband Ben Nicholson, and their children. The brilliant, clear, Mediterranean quality of the light of the Penwith peninsula - where St. Ives is situated - its remarkable sculptural coastline and prehistoric standing stones, stone circles and quoits, all had a deep impact on Hepworth. The experience of Cornwall and the vital influences of its landscape caused the constructive geometric component in her work to recede into the background. Hepworth became preoccupied with the subtle relationship between sculpture and landscape.

Before this change of scene she was more concerned with the relationship of sculpture and architecture. By 1946, and the Waterloo Bridge Competition, a balance was achieved between these two views which led to the inclusion within the sculpture of lyrical qualities born from the sensations of nature and designed as a contrapuntal poetic element to express the essence of modern architecture (see J. P. Hodin, Barbara Hepworth, London, 1961, p. 20).

Hepworth's choice of the reclining figure was clearly determined by the stipulation in the brief for the competition of a 'low horizontal sculptural treatment' and is appropriate to the shape and scale of the plinths'. (M. Gale and C. Stephens, Barbara Hepworth Works in the Tate Gallery Collection and the Barbara Hepworth Museum St. Ives, London, 1999, p. 105.) Though the motif of the reclining figure had featured in Hepworth's treatment of the Mother and Child theme in 1934, it was especially prominent in post-war British sculpture through the success of Henry Moore's work. Model for Sculpture for Waterloo Bridge is more abstract than Moore's sculpture, but the basic definition of the figure by means of a twisting, organic form may be compared to his Recumbent Figure of 1938 (Tate, London) with which she was undoubtedly familiar. It is probable that the pressures on Hepworth from the proposal would have prevented experimentation with widely varying ideas: shortly after receiving the invitation to compete, she complained to E. H. Ramsden, 'they only give four months for the competition. It does not allow time for anything to go wrong. What a hazard life is for women' (letter to E. H. Ramsden, June 1947). Nicholson recorded that the project 'kept her busy night and day all summer' (B. Nicholson, letter to Helen Sutherland, 27 November 1947). Indeed, neither Epstein nor Moore were able to complete their entries within the four month deadline.

When Hepworth began carving again in 1943, the abstract geometry of her work from the mid to late 1930s - the cones, hemispheres and polyhedrons - was replaced by semi-abstract subjects with strong figurative or landscape associations. In her works of 1946, a number of which were in Portland stone, the organic ovoid of her early-1940s output had developed into a more twisted, though still enwrapping form. The curvature of the present work has an extraordinary subtlety and refinement: the form seems to coil around itself like a natural growth. The flowing, organic character of this curve illustrates what a mastery Hepworth had now attained over her material and how she could carve extremely complex forms without any apparent effort. It is an image which combines both movement and stillness. Model for Sculpture for Waterloo Bridge embodies and at the same time complements its proposed geographical location. Its stillness corresponds to the bridge's architectural solidity and functionality, whilst the lyrical, organic curves echo the shapes and movement of water, or the river below.

In the late-1940s Hepworth's sculpture began to be involved explicitly with the human figure once more. It was with a new kind of sensitivity, born of her involvement with landscape, and her response to the enfolding shapes of Cornish harbours and sea-caves, headlands and tides. If we consider the present work in situ in the urban environment it was designed for, it would have been positioned against a backdrop of the London skyline. Hence in the prensent work, we observe an interesting juxtaposition of her inspiration from both the urban and Cornish landscape, with the reclining human figure. This perfectly embodies the purpose of the bridge, throughout history as a place where man crosses water. The Portland stone here serves to further emphasise timelessness.

The end of the war brought the longed-for release from tension and a new freedom; it also brought commissions and opportunities for exhibitions (also due in part to Hepworth's flourishing repute). "I think landscape had been a fruitful escape from the harshness of World War Two; but now I wanted to go back to human tenderness" (Letters to, or conversations with, Edwin Mullins, 1969/1970). Coming at a time of change and reappraisal in Hepworth's work, Model for Sculpture for Waterloo Bridge can thus be seen as heralding the chapter of Hepworth's career relating to the artist in society. Though unrealised, the project for Waterloo Bridge appears to have stimulated Hepworth's interest in monumental, public sculpture. Her invitation to show at the Venice Biennale in 1950 was immediately followed by two important public commissions for the Festival of Britain in 1950: Contrapuntal Forms (BH 165, Harlow, Essex) was commissioned by the Arts Council and Turning Forms (BH 166, Marlborough Science Academy, St. Albans).

The previous owner of the present work was the architect Henry Gilbert, the well-known St. Ives figure, who designed a number of important buildings in the town including Piazza and Barnaloft (where artists including Bernard Leach and Wilhelmina Barns-Graham lived). For many years he ran the Wills Lane Gallery and was a close personal friend of Hepworth's. He is credited with encouraging her to work with slate as a material for carving.

We are very grateful to Dr Sophie Bowness for her assistance in preparing this catalogue entry.

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