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

Single Form (Antiphon)

Barbara Hepworth (1903-1975)
Single Form (Antiphon)
signed, dated, numbered and inscribed with foundry mark 'Barbara Hepworth 1969 5/7 Morris Singer FOUNDERS LONDON' (on the back of the base)
bronze and brown patina, partially polished
Height: 86 7/8 in. (220.5 cm.)
Conceived in 1953; this bronze version cast in 1969
Estate of the artist.
Marlborough Gallery, Ltd., London (acquired from the above).
Private collection (acquired from the above, 1979).
New Art Centre, Salisbury, England.
Acquired from the above by the present owner, November 1994.
J.P. Hodin, Barbara Hepworth, New York, 1961, p. 168 (boxwood version illustrated, pl. 187).
M. Shepherd, "Gleaming from the Past," The Sunday Telegraph, 15 February 1970, p. 17.
A. Bowness, ed., The Complete Sculpture of Barbara Hepworth, 1960-1969, London, 1971, p. 49, no. 490.
O. Blakeston, "Barbara Hepworth, Gimpel Fils," Arts Review, vol. XXVII, no. 22, 31 October 1975, p. 630.
W.J. Strachan, Open Air Sculpture in Britain: A Comprehensive Guide, London, 1984, p. 189, no. 429 (another cast illustrated).
University of Exeter, Open Air Exhibition, April-June 1973.
Zurich, Marlborough Galerie, Barbara Hepworth, August-October 1975, p. 21, no. 7 (illustrated).

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Sarah El-Tamer

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Lot Essay

Single Form (Antiphon) is included as BH 490 in the Hepworth catalogue raisonné of sculptures being revised by Dr. Sophie Bowness.
Single Form (Antiphon) is one of the most striking and elegant examples of Hepworth’s single forms, its delicate and slender monolithic shape evoking the grandeur and majesty of the standing human figure. The single standing form was among the most important of Hepworth’s oeuvre and became an archetypal image, as the reclining figure would for Henry Moore. Hepworth described the importance of it in her repertoire: “The forms that have had special meaning for me since childhood have been the standing form (which is the translation of my feelings towards the human being standing in the landscape)” (quoted in Barbara Hepworth: An Exhibition of Sculpture from 1952-1962, exh. cat., Whitechapel Art Gallery, London, n.p.).
Originally carved in Boxwood in 1953, Single Form (Antiphon) was later cast in bronze in 1969. Imbued with a solemn monumentality, the form recalls the ancient stone menhirs which stand in the landscape around St. Ives, where Hepworth kept her studio (fig. 1). Her heightened awareness of the figure in relation to the landscape corresponds with Hepworth’s departure from London and her move to Cornwall with Ben Nicholson, her second husband, in August 1939, shortly before the outbreak of the Second World War. Cornwall’s sculptural landscape captivated the artist with its magnificent cliffs, headlands and caves, its monolithic stones and abandoned tin mines, which poetically punctuated the skyline. To her, in “the pure light” of the Cornish coast, “the solitary human figure, standing on a hill or cliff, sand or rock, becomes a strong column, a thrust out of the land” (S. Bowness, ed., Barbara Hepworth, Writings and Conversations, London, 2015, pp. 116-117). The effect of this landscape can be seen in Single Form (Antiphon), its softly undulated form seemingly worn by the weather, as it seems to emerge from the landscape, rising up out of the earth.
This notion of man’s harmony with his natural surroundings was not new to British Art, but it was to British sculpture, which had never before accommodated these sensibilities in such a bold and abstract manner. Hepworth expressed the excitement of such discovery: “It was during this time that I gradually discovered the remarkable pagan landscape which lies between St Ives, Penzance and Land’s End: a landscape which still has a very deep effect on me, developing all my ideas about the relationship of the human figure in landscape—sculpture in landscape and the essential quality of light in relation to sculpture...I was the figure in the landscape and every sculpture contained to a greater or lesser degree the ever changing forms and contours embodying my own response to a given position in that landscape...There is no landscape without the human figure: it is impossible for me to contemplate pre-history in the abstract” (quoted in H. Read. intro., Barbara Hepworth: Carvings and Drawings, London, 1952, n.p.).
Hepworth discovered that this duality between figure and landscape existed as much at home in Cornwall as it did in the Neolithic stones of Greece. Travelling to Greece and the Aegean and Cycladic Islands in an attempt to reconcile her grief after the death of her first child Paul the previous year, Hepworth was struck by the brilliance and warmth of the Mediterranean light, which fell upon the ancient stones and architecture. Indeed, light became of utmost importance to the artist who began to introduce apertures and hollows within her work. This can be seen to potent effect in Single Form (Antiphon), where central holes allow the light to filter through the heart of the sculpture, instilling the piece with a sense of energy and life.
This use of empty space is important, for the trip to Greece was to renew Hepworth’s interest in the harmonization of space, volume and proportion. The apertures create a sense of spatial tension, which, emphasized by the verticality of its structure, transform the negative space into intermediate or anti-forms. The hollows also allow for the interplay between the solid and void, with the artist balancing matter and empty space, permitting the sculpture to dually dominate the space it occupies whilst also allowing for its integration with its surroundings. This sense of duality is apparent in the work’s title Single Form (Antiphon), with the Greek word antiphon meaning a response, often in relation to a choir, or a psalm, usually in the form of a chant or as part of a religious ritual. Hepworth’s preoccupation with space allows for what she defined as a silent element that she pushed for in contemporary art, citing Mondrian and Brancusi as leaders of this practice.
Single Form (Antiphon) was created during a period of great success for the artist. In 1950 Hepworth was nominated to represent Britain at the 25th Venice Biennale and in the same year two of her sculptures were commissioned for the Festival of Britain. Retrospective exhibitions of her work were held in Wakefield in 1951 and at the Whitechapel Art Gallery, London in 1954. Hepworth was also awarded second prize in The Unknown Political Prisoner competition organized by the Institute of Contemporary Arts, London and was awarded a C.B.E in 1958. She received a number of large bronze commissions such as Meridian for State House, London in 1959 and later that year was awarded the Grand Prix at the Fifth São Paulo Bienal, Brazil.

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