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Elegy III

Elegy III
signed, dated and numbered ‘Barbara Hepworth 1966 3/6’ (on the top of the base); inscribed with foundry mark ‘Morris Singer Founders London’ (on the back of the base)
bronze with brown and green patina
Height: 55 in. (139.5 cm.)
Conceived in 1966 and cast in 1967
Marlborough Fine Art, Ltd., London (acquired from the artist, June 1968).
Marlborough-Godard Gallery, Toronto (acquired from the above).
Private collection, Canada (acquired from the above, 1976, until at least 1995).
Haunch of Venison, London.
Acquired from the above by the late owner, 2003.
A. Bowness, ed., The Complete Sculpture of Barbara Hepworth 1960-1969, London, 1971, no. 429 (another cast illustrated, pl. 158).
S. Bowness, ed., Barbara Hepworth: The Plasters, the Gift to Wakefield, London, 2011, p. 146, no. 26 (plaster illustrated in color, p. 147; other casts illustrated in situ at The Morris Singer foundry, p. 56, pl. 50).
London, Tate Gallery, Barbara Hepworth, April-May 1968, pp. 49 and 61, no. 169 (another cast illustrated in situ at the Rietveld Pavilion, p. 48; titled Hollow Form with Color).
London, Marlborough Fine Art, Ltd., Recent Acquisitions, July-August 1968, no. 17 (illustrated).
Special notice
On occasion, Christie's has a direct financial interest in the outcome of the sale of certain lots consigned for sale. This will usually be where it has guaranteed to the Seller that whatever the outcome of the auction, the Seller will receive a minimum sale price for the work. This is known as a minimum price guarantee. This is such a lot.
Further details
Elegy III is included as BH 429 in the Hepworth catalogue raisonné of sculptures being revised by Dr. Sophie Bowness.

Brought to you by

Max Carter
Max Carter Vice Chairman, 20th and 21st Century Art, Americas

Lot Essay

The hollowed out ovoid is one of the defining forms of Barbara Hepworth’s oeuvre. Inspired by the dramatic, undulating landscape of her home in St. Ives, Cornwall, and demonstrating her innate understanding of her materials and her ability to carve, shape or sculpt them, for Hepworth, this motif had a universal resonance. As she described, “the closed form, such as the oval, spherical or pierced form (sometimes incorporating color) which translates for me the association and meaning of gesture in landscape; in the repose of say a mother and child, or the feeling of the embrace of living things, either in nature or in the human spirit” (quoted in P. Curtis and A.G. Wilkinson, Barbara Hepworth: A Retrospective, exh. cat., Tate Gallery Liverpool, 1994, p. 82).
Conceived in 1966, Elegy III was cast from a wood carving executed the previous year: Hollow Form with White (BH 384; Tate, London). Cast in an edition of seven, with this work Hepworth harnessed the aesthetic potentials of bronze. The polished elm wood surface of Hollow Form with White has been transformed into the gleaming, timeless metal, and the white painted interior replaced with a richly evocative green-blue patina. Other casts of Elegy III reside in the Kröller-Müller Museum, Otterlo and the Franklin D. Murphy Sculpture Garden, University of California, Los Angeles.
Elegy III is the third and final work of a closely related trio of sculptures, all of which share the same title. The first two, Elegy and Elegy II (BH 131 and 134; Private collection and Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh), are wood carvings executed in the mid-1940s. With their pierced ovoid forms, these works reflect an essential shift that occurred in Hepworth’s work at this time. In July 1942, Hepworth and her family had moved to a new, larger house on Carbis Bay in St. Ives. Though the war raged on, Hepworth now had the space to begin carving again. “A new era seemed to begin for me… There was a sudden release… now I had a studio workroom looking straight towards the horizon of the sea and enfolded (but with always the escape for the eye straight out to the Atlantic) by the arms of land to the left and right of me” (quoted in ibid., p. 81).
From this point onwards, the Cornish landscape played an essential role in Hepworth’s sculpture, as Elegy III demonstrates. She began not only to hollow out and pierce forms, imparting a sense of the rolling hills, cavernous cliffs, and rugged coastline, but also to incorporate the colors of the world around her into her work. “The color in the concavities plunged me into the depth of water, caves, or shadows deeper than the carved concavities themselves,” she once explained (quoted in ibid., p. 82). The luminous aqua-toned hollows of the present work conjure the ever-changing turquoise flecked Atlantic that bordered her Cornish home.
The title, Elegy, also adds a poignancy to this work. Hepworth had first used this title in the middle of the Second World War, reflecting perhaps the melancholy that pervaded these years. In returning to this title, Hepworth was possibly, Matthew Gale and Chris Stephens have written, reiterating her “belief in the affirmation of abstract form in contrast to the destruction of war” (Barbara Hepworth, Works in the Tate Collection and the Barbara Hepworth Museum St Ives, London, p. 2001, p. 232).

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