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Artist's Resale Right ("Droit de Suite"). Artist's… Read more PROPERTY FROM AN AMERICAN ESTATE

Small Oval

Small Oval
alabaster, on a slate base, unique
8 1/2 in. (21.6 cm.) long, excluding base
Carved in 1963.
This work is recorded as BH 352.
with Gimpel Fils, London.
Anonymous sale; Christie's, New York, 11 May 1989, lot 409.
with New Art Centre, Salisbury, where purchased by Joy Barnes in February 1996.
Her sale; Greenslade Taylor Hunt, Taunton, 20 Sepember 2012, lot 119.
with Richard Green, London, where purchased by the present owner in November 2013.
A. Bowness (ed.), The Complete Sculpture of Barbara Hepworth 1960-69, London, 1971, p. 36, no. 352, pl. 89.
Exhibition catalogue, Barbara Hepworth: 50 Sculptures from 1935 to 70, London, Gimpel Fils, 1975, n.p., no. 42, illustrated.
London, Gimpel Fils, Barbara Hepworth: Sculpture and Drawings, June 1964, no. 38.
London, Tate Gallery, Barbara Hepworth: Retrospective Exhibition, April - May 1968, no. 140.
London, Gimpel Fils, Barbara Hepworth: 50 Sculptures from 1935 to 70, October - November 1975, no. 42.
London, Gimpel Fils, Ben Nicholson and Barbara Hepworth, June - September 1990, no. 10.
London, Gimpel Fils, Barbara Hepworth, October - November 1994, ex. cat.
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. This lot has been imported from outside of the UK for sale and placed under the Temporary Admission regime. Import VAT is payable at 5% on the hammer price. VAT at 20% will be added to the buyer’s premium but will not be shown separately on our invoice.

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Lot Essay

'Perhaps what one wants to say is formed in childhood and the rest of one’s life is spent trying to say it. I know that all I felt during the early years of my life in Yorkshire is dynamic and constant in my life today' Barbara Hepworth
Carved from alabaster, Small Oval is a smooth, complex, organic form which showcases Hepworth's direct carving approach with the purity and beauty of her chosen medium. The cool opacity of the stone, which fascinated her in its chameleon like quality to change in light, temperature, and density in reaction to the atmosphere, is perfectly chosen in this work to juxtapose with a timeless symbol of humanity, and its place in the natural and spiritual world: the pierced form. She deeply identified with the medium in her hands, believing that 'the understanding of the material and the meaning of the form being carved must be in perfect equilibrium' (B. Hepworth, quoted in Barbara Hepworth Exhibition 1927-1954, Whitechapel Gallery, London, 1954, p. 10).
It was in alabaster that Hepworth had first pierced the form in sculpture in as early as 1931, recalling that ‘I began to experiment in a kind of organic abstraction, reducing the forms of the natural world to abstractions. Then, in 1934, I created my first entirely non-figurative works. But it was in 1931 that I began to burrow into the mass of sculpted form, to pierce it and make it hollow so as to let light and air into forms and figures’ (Barbara Hepworth, quoted in an interview with E. Roditi, Dialogues on Art, London, 1960). Indeed, Hepworth was concerned with three shapes throughout her career: 'The forms that have had special significance for me since childhood have been the standing form (which is the translation of my feeling towards the human being standing in landscape); the two forms (which is the tender relationship of one living thing beside another); and the closed form, such as the oval, spherical or pierced form, sometimes incorporating colours, 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', (B. Hepworth, quoted in A Pictorial Autobiography, London, 1985, p. 53).
In 1958 Hepworth had decided to make bronze casts of her earlier carvings to increase her output for an enthusiastic international audience. The first work she chose to cast was Oval Sculpture, 1943 (The Pier Arts Centre, Stromness) in plane wood with painted interior, which belonged to her friend, Margaret Gardiner. As a consequence, her output in the decade of the 1960s was greater than that of her career to date, and yet she continued to carve in coloured stones, slate, and wood, in addition to creating casts for bronze sculpture, experiencing a rich stream of creativity inspired by the materials from the natural world around her. Her discovery of the Penwith peninsula around the Cornish coastline endowed her art with elements from the ocean as well as from the landscape, experienced during her Yorkshire childhood. Now the curled form becomes indicative of the caves and waters of Cornwall where she lived, and the spiralled shell forms she found upon the shores. As Alan Wilkinson has remarked, ‘Hepworth’s sculptures should be perceived as semi-abstract equivalents of elements of landscape and architecture, and of bodily sensations in relation to them. They are evocative rather than literal representations of the waves breaking on Porthmeor beach’ (A.G. Wilkinson, Barbara Hepworth, Toronto, 1991, p. 22).
An enduring symbol throughout her career, Hepworth remarked, ''I have always been interested in oval or ovoid shapes. The first carvings were simple realistic oval forms of the human head or of a bird. Gradually my interest grew in more abstract values - the weight, poise, and curvature of the ovoid as a basic form. The carving and piercing of such a form seems to open up an infinite variety of continuous curves in the third dimension, changing in accordance with the contours of the original ovoid and with the degree of penetration of the material. Here is sufficient field for exploration to last a lifetime' (B. Hepworth, 'Approach to Sculpture', Studio, vol. 132, no. 643, October 1946).

We are grateful to Dr Sophie Bowness for her assistance with the cataloguing apparatus for this work. Dr Sophie Bowness is preparing the revised catalogue raisonné of Hepworth’s sculpture.

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