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Property from the Important Canadian Collection of Eph and Shirley Diamond

Static Forms

Static Forms
white marble on wooden base
Height (including base): 23 1⁄8 in. (59 cm.)
Length (including base): 28 1⁄8 in. (71.4 cm.)
Depth (including base): 22 1⁄8 in. (56.1 cm.)
Conceived and carved in 1972; unique
Marlborough Fine Art, Ltd., London (acquired from the artist).
Marlborough-Godard, Ltd., Toronto (acquired from the above).
Acquired from the above by the late owners, 29 August 1973.
Toronto, Marlborough-Godard, Ltd., Barbara Hepworth: Carvings and Bronzes, May 1973, pp. 4 and 12, no. 11 (illustrated, p. 12; dimensions not including base).
Further details
Static Forms is included as BH 547 in the Hepworth catalogue raisonné of sculptures being revised by Dr. Sophie Bowness.

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Emily Kaplan
Emily Kaplan Senior Vice President, Senior Specialist, Co-Head of 20th Century Evening Sale

Lot Essay

Created in 1972, Static Forms is an elegant exploration of one of the central themes within Barbara Hepworth’s oeuvre—the intricate tensions and relationships that arise from two forms when shown alongside one another, a pairing she believed represented “the tender relationship of one living thing beside another” (“Statement by the Artist” in Barbara Hepworth Retrospective, 1927-54, exh. cat., Whitechapel Art Gallery, London, 1954, p. 10). During this period of her career, Hepworth’s work was imbued with a distinctly retrospective quality, the formal purity of her carvings echoing the geometric abstraction of her pioneering sculptures of the 1930s. In Static Forms, she examines the relationship between a pair of simplified ovoid forms separated by a slender gap, the proximity of their shapes suggesting an almost emotional and physical intimacy. The highly polished surfaces, smooth contours and sensitively carved impressions introduce a delicate play of light across the sculpture, emphasizing and highlighting the subtle shifts in mass and volume that occur within the two forms, accentuating their similarities as well as their inherent differences.
Hepworth had returned to direct carving on an intimate scale in the 1960s after almost a decade focused on bronze casting and monumental public sculptures. From the earliest stages of her career she had held a deeply rooted passion for the process, which she had first discovered during an extended sojourn to Italy as a young student in the 1920s. Reveling in the physicality of the technique, she appreciated the rhythms and motions that occurred in the act of cutting into and shaping the material, even the sounds of the stone or wood as it yielded to her tools. “Carving to me is more interesting than modelling,” she explained, “because there is an unlimited variety of materials from which to draw inspiration. Each material demands a particular treatment and there are an infinite number of subjects in life each to be recreated in a particular material. In fact, it would be possible to carve the same subject in a different stone each time, throughout life, without a repetition of form” (quoted in “Contemporary English Sculptors” in The Architectural Association Journal, London, vol. XLV, no. 518, April 1930, p. 14).
For Hepworth, working directly with the raw material in this way allowed her to achieve a deeper understanding of the unique character of each work, whether it be slate or alabaster, elm or guarea, responding to the material’s idiosyncrasies as she carved. In particular, she was drawn to fine white marble, finding in the renowned quarries of Carrara and Serravezza a material that held a classical purity and sensual richness. Discussing its inherent appeal with the critic Josef P. Hodin in 1964, Hepworth explained: “I love marble specially because of its radiance in the light, its hardness, precision and response to the sun... 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; reproduced in S. Bowness, ed., Barbara Hepworth: Writings and Conversations, London, 2015, pp. 168-169). In her Trewyn studio in St. Ives, Cornwall, new blocks of marble would accumulate in the so-called “carving yard,” leading the artist to affectionately refer to them as her flock of sheep, waiting to be subjected to her artistic vision.
In Static Forms, Hepworth addresses the marble with a distinct sensitivity, the ovoid forms carefully analyzing the distribution of weight and curvature within the piece to accurately convey the pure essence of the shape. Introducing indentations to the surface, Hepworth enhances the interplay of light and shadow across the marble, while also revealing the continuous path of the delicate, natural pigment as it permeates the stone. By adopting different approaches to the internal carvings of each of the ovals—one features a pair of softly curvilinear shapes carved into its surface, while the other boasts a dramatically sharp-edged, tapering incision that stretches almost the full height of the sculpture—Hepworth imbues the forms with contrasting, individual personalities, to further enhance the tension between the two pieces and perhaps suggest a male-female dichotomy within the sculpture.

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