Dame Barbara Hepworth (1903-1975)
VAT rate of 5% is payable on hammer price and at 2… Read more Property Belonging to the Baruch College Fund, New York
Dame Barbara Hepworth (1903-1975)

Bimorphic Theme

Dame Barbara Hepworth (1903-1975)
Bimorphic Theme
mahogany; unique
30 7/8 in. (78.4 cm.) high, excluding wooden base
Carved in 1948-49
Sidney Mishkin, New York.
Gift from the above to the present owner, 1992.
J.P. Hodin, Barbara Hepworth, London, 1961, p. 166, no. 152.
M. Gale and C. Stephens, Barbara Hepworth, Works in the Tate Gallery Collection and the Barbara Hepworth Museum St Ives, London, 1999, p. 121, fig. 53.
London, Lefevre Gallery, New Sculpture and Drawings by Barbara Hepworth, February 1950, no. 14.
Wakefield, City Art Gallery, Barbara Hepworth, Sculpture and Drawings, May 1951, no. 43: this exhibition travelled to York, City Art Gallery, July 1951; and Manchester, City Art Gallery, September 1951.
Special notice
VAT rate of 5% is payable on hammer price and at 20% on the buyer's premium.

Brought to you by

André Zlattinger
André Zlattinger

Check the condition report or get in touch for additional information about this

If you wish to view the condition report of this lot, please sign in to your account.

Sign in
View condition report

Lot Essay

In 1931 Barbara Hepworth produced Pierced Form, a small wooden carving, which is now considered a landmark work in the history of 20th century sculpture. With this work Hepworth became the first British sculptor to decisively penetrate the internal space, and her evocative flirtations with space, depth and three-dimensionality during the inter-war period have proved an inspiration for succeeding generations. For Hepworth, the piercing of her work is not a rupture or violent obtrusion into the sculpture, but rather a natural molding of the entity into its surroundings. The questions raised by these sculptures and the ideas they explore have a timeless validity in their investigations of the three-dimensional and the interconnectedness of humanity with space and art. The piercing resulted in a vision of sculpted works that was as iconoclastic as Cubism in its subversion of academic conventions. As with Cubism, there was not turning back as Pierced Form had repercussions that have provided a constant challenge to contemporary artists.

Bimorphic Theme was executed in 1948-49, when Hepworth had already settled in St Ives, Cornwall, which became her permanent home. In spacious and bucolic surrounding, hardwoods such as mahogany became her favourite working material, organic in nature and ideal for creating such large-scale, geomorphic forms. In many ways Hepworth's carvings based on the single figure focus on the colour and shape of the material, more a celebration of wood than the subject itself. The skillful execution of the carving invites the eye to glide across the surface of the wood and visually consume the intricate pattern of the grain, and the undulating lines and curves that articulate the form. The form of Bimorphic Theme is strong and sturdy, and yet the vision changes as the viewer circumambulates the work and chases the light dancing across the surface. Hepworth holds these two opposing forces in balance in her art, stimulated by an interest and affinity with the classical sculpture of Greece and the Etruscans. Nothing is harsh with Hepworth, whose work, as exemplified by Bimorphic Theme, resonates an enduring sense of peace and immutability.

In the same year, the artist had carved a limestone sculpture, Bicentric Form, which was purchased by Tate Britain in 1950 (see fig. 1). Hepworth described this work as 'a fusion of two figures in one sculptural entity'. The fusion of these interlocking forms, seen also in the drawings of this period, are symbolic of her interest in relationships, and relate to the ancient standing stones which rose out of the Cornish landscape and which acted as such a source of inspiration during this period.

Dr Sophie Bowness will include Bimorphic Theme as BH 152 in her catalogue raisonné of Hepworth's sculpture, currently under revision.

More from 20th Century British & Irish Art

View All
View All