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

Curved Form

Dame Barbara Hepworth (1903-1975)
Curved Form
white serravezza marble, unique
19½ in. (49.5 cm.) long
Carved in 1950-54.
This work is recorded as BH195, unique.
with Galerie Chalette, New York.
with Devorah Sherman Gallery, Chicago, November 1962.
with Weintraub Gallery, New York, 1979.
with Gimpel Fils London, May 1987.
Private collection, October 1987.
Anonymous sale; Sotheby's London, 30 November 1988, lot 242, where purchased on behalf of the present owner.
J.P. Hodin, Barbara Hepworth, Neuchatel, 1961, no. 195.
Newcastle-Upon-Tyne, Hatton Gallery, University of Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Barbara Hepworth, Ben Nicholson : [21 sculptures, 19 paintings and painted reliefs], December 1956, no. 7, as 'Pierced Form'.
St Ives, Penwith Society of Artists, Penwith Society of Arts in Cornwall: A Selection of Paintings and Drawings, Sculpture and Pottery,
St Ives, 1957-8: this exhibition travelled to Newcastle, Laing Art Gallery, November - December 1957; Hull, Ferens Gallery, December 1957 - January 1958; Leicester Art Gallery, January - February 1958; Mansfield, Museum and Art Gallery, February - March 1958; Birmingham City Art Gallery, March - April 1958; Brighton Art Gallery, April - May 1958; Hereford Art Gallery, May - June 1958; Kettering, Museum and Art Gallery, June - July 1958; Bolton Art Gallery, July - August 1958; Barnsley, Cooper Art Gallery, August 1958; Penarth, Turner House Museum, September 1958; and Cambridge, Arts Council Gallery, October - November 1958.
New York, Galerie Chalette, Exhibition of Sculpture, October - November 1959, no. 11.
New York, Weintraub Gallery, Master Sculptors of the XX Century, March 1987, no. 31.
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Anne Haasjes
Anne Haasjes

Lot Essay

‘Sculpture, to me, is primitive, religious, passionate, and magical’
(letter from Barbara Hepworth to A.M. Hammacher, February 1955)

Hepworth visited Greece and the Agean and Cycladic Islands in August 1954. Of all her writings about the landscape, her descriptions of Greece - the mountains, hills and plains, the architecture and sculpture stand alone in their poetic intensity. On her return to St Ives she began working on a series of carvings inspired by her recent trip to Greece. She may have completed Curved Form which she began in 1950, after this trip, it is carved in white serravezza marble a material she was especially fond of … ‘I love marble specially because of its radiance in the light, its hardness, precision and response to the sun’. Barbara Hepworth told her friend the critic Josef Hodin in 1964. ‘Marble is indeed a noble material, it has a most exceptional sensitivity and delicacy as well as a tremendous strength’ (quoted in J.P. Hodin, ‘Barbara Hepworth and the Mediterranean spirit’, in Marmo Rivista Internazionale d’ Arte e Architettura, No. 3, December 1964, pp. 59, 62). A chance remark by Ardini, an Italian master carver whom she met in Rome, that ‘marble changes colour under different people’s hands’ opened her eyes to the need for a sculptor to have a very sensitive relationship to this material.
Hepworth’s self-control of her passions and emotions is clearly displayed in her control of this marble in an abstract manner, yet one can also view the marble which draws the eye to the pierced holes as an echo of humanity, Hepworth’s balance between man and nature. Curved Form is intended to be seen in the round, it presents different perspectives with the different light and the angle of viewing. This enables the present work to provide the viewer with a piece that never remains the same, much as stone changes in an external landscape. The two piercings of Curved Form challenge and underlie the solidity of the marble. Hepworth believed that ‘the dynamic quality of the surfaces of a sculpture can be increased by devices which give one the impression that a form has been created by forces operating within its own mass as well as from outside’ (E. Roditi, loc. cit.). By burrowing through her forms, Hepworth allowed the light to enter into the mass of the stone itself. As Jeanette Winterton concluded, ‘Hepworth made the hole into a connection between different expressions of form, and she made space into its own form. Her version of ‘truth to material’ means that space is as much a part of a Hepworth sculpture as mass ... Put your hand into a Barbara Hepworth hole, and you grasp this’ (quoted in exhibition catalogue, Barbara Hepworth Centenary, Tate St Ives, 2003, pp. 19-20).
The 1950s, despite the break-up of her marriage to Ben Nicholson, was a period of great expansion in her work and reputation. In 1949 she had bought Trewyn Studios in St Ives which, with its workshops and semi-tropical garden, provided a perfect working environment for her; and in the following year an exhibition of her sculpture and drawings was shown in the British pavilion at the Venice Biennale, the first real sign of whole-hearted official recognition. In 1954 the year she completed Curved Form she had a highly successful retrospective exhibition at the Whitechapel Art Gallery. Bryan Robertson in the introduction to the Whitechapel Art gallery exhibition of Barbara Hepworth’s sculpture from 1952-1962 suggests that her carvings from this period brings us to the essential core of Hepworth’s work. He suggests ‘she has made a most radical synthesis between the abstract human principles of Brancusi with the equally abstract but entirely geometric, non-figurative spatial and constructivist ideals of Gabo. Hepworth was affected rather than directly influenced by the work of these innovators, standing in direct spiritual opposition to each other; and the steadily growing strength of her imagination rapidly engendered a conception of sculpture which is entirely her own. Her recreation of the simpler structures and basic inner springs of landscape itself, within the scope of sculpture, is an invention of the highest order’.

We are very grateful to Dr Sophie Bowness for providing information in preparing this catalogue entry. Dr Sophie Bowness is preparing the revised catalogue raisonné of Hepworth's sculpture.

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