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Dame Barbara Hepworth (1903-1975)
Artist's Resale Right ("Droit de Suite"). Artist's… Read more PROPERTY FROM A PRIVATE LONDON COLLECTION
Dame Barbara Hepworth (1903-1975)

Radial

Details
Dame Barbara Hepworth (1903-1975)
Radial
signed and dated 'Barbara Hepworth 8/12/47' (lower right), signed again, inscribed and dated again 'Barbara Hepworth/Radial/Dec 8' (on the backboard)
oil and pencil on gesso-prepared board
12¼ x 15 3/8 in. (31 x 39 cm.), shaped
This work is recorded as D 114.
Provenance
Acquired directly from the artist by E.C. Gregory.
His sale; Sotheby's, London, 4 November 1959, lot 145, where purchased by Dr E. Wilkes.
His sale; Sotheby's, London, 28 June 1995, lot 209, where purchased by the present owner.
Literature
Exhibition catalogue, Festival of Britain Exhibition: Barbara Hepworth: Sculpture and Drawings, Wakefield, City Art Galley, 1951, n.p., no. 59, illustrated.
Untitled typescript of a lecture to surgeons in Exeter, circa 1953.
Exhibition catalogue, Barbara Hepworth: Drawings from the 1940s Loan Exhibition, London, Hazlitt Holland-Hibbert, 2005, pp. 48-49, exhibition not numbered, illustrated.
N. Hepburn (ed.), exhibition catalogue, Barbara Hepworth The Hospital Drawings, Wakefield, Hepworth Wakefield, 2012, pp. 94, 124, exhibition not numbered, illustrated.
C. Darwent, 'Barbara Hepworth: The Hospital Drawings, The Hepworth Wakefield, West Yorkshire Review', The Independent, 4 November 2012.
S. Bowness (ed.), Barbara Hepworth Writings and Conversations, London, 2015, p. 89.
Exhibited
London, Lefevre Gallery, Paintings by Barbara Hepworth, Paintings by L.S. Lowry, April 1948, no. 11.
Venice, British Council, 'Exhibition of works by John Constable, Matthew Smith, Barbara Hepworth', XXV Venice Biennale, June - August 1950, no. 95.
Wakefield, City Art Galley, Festival of Britain Exhibition: Barbara Hepworth: Sculpture and Drawings, May - July 1951, no. 59: this exhibition travelled to York, City Art Gallery, July - August 1951; and Manchester, City Art Gallery, September - October 1951.
London, Whitechapel Art Gallery, Barbara Hepworth: A Retrospective Exhibition of Carvings and Drawings from 1927 to 1954, April - June 1954, no. 94.
London, ICA, The Gregory Collection, July - August 1959, no. 14.
Sheffield, City Art Galleries, Local Heritage, April - May 1970, no. 31.
St Ives, Tate Gallery, Barbara Hepworth Museum and Sculpture Garden, Opening Study Display - Barbara Hepworth: Hospital Drawings, 1993, ex-catalogue.
London, Hazlitt Holland-Hibbert, Barbara Hepworth: Drawings from the 1940s Loan Exhibition, October - November 2005, exhibition not numbered.
Wakefield, Hepworth Wakefield, Barbara Hepworth The Hospital Drawings, October 2012 - February 2013, exhibition not numbered: this exhibition travelled to Chichester, Pallant House Gallery, February - June 2012; and Kent, Mascalls Gallery, June - August 2012.
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.

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William Porter

Lot Essay

‘From the very first moment I was entirely enthralled by the classic beauty of what I saw there; classic in the sense that architecture and function were perfectly blended and purity of idea and grace of execution were in complete harmony’ (B. Hepworth, quoted in N. Hepburn, Barbara Hepworth: The Hospital Drawings, London, 2012, p. 81).

The present work, Radial, is from a series of paintings that the artist called “Hospital Drawings” depicting surgeons working in an operating theatre. Hepworth had become fascinated by watching surgeons at work after her daughter, Sarah, underwent treatment for a bone condition that necessitated wearing a full body cast. The orthopaedic surgeon heading her treatment at the Princess Elizabeth Hospital in Exeter, Norman Capener, was befriended by Hepworth and Ben Nicholson and invited to visit the artists’ studios, even allowing him to carve stone while convalescing from an illness. In return he invited Hepworth to witness an operation in progress and in November 1947, she witnessed her first: a reconstruction of the hip. The purity and beauty of the purpose and the execution of the work attracted her to the subject and for the next three years Hepworth continued producing small sketches in operating theatres in London and the West Country, later transferring them into larger works.

For Hepworth, the operating theatre was an example of architecture designed for a given purpose, where a group of people could work synchronically together, with grace and beauty, dedicated to the dignified purpose of saving a life. This is reflected in the composition of the figures, which represent great balance and harmony within their environment and between each other. Hepworth saw a close affinity in the profession of the surgeon and the sculptor; she felt that just how a sculptor seeks to create concrete ideas of beauty, a surgeon aims to restore the beauty of human mind and body. Interestingly, Hepworth compared the movement in the operating theatre, and the aesthetic pleasure received from observing the surgeons, to the ballet, orchestra and the Olympic Games.

Radial is focused on surgeons and their delicacy of touch, which was highly apparent to Hepworth. Here, the circular composition reflects on the previous ideas of the artist’s work, such as rhythm, poise and equilibrium. The eye is immediately attracted to their gestures and then moves around the composition to the shoulders of the surgeons, which also form a circle. In this piece, Hepworth exhibited the same fluid concentric circular forms, which are present in her sculptures. Instead of pain and fear, Hepworth depicted the harmony of the action. For example, in Preparation (1949; private collection), the surgeons are represented in a similar circular composition. However, in contrast to Preparation, in Radial, the present work, Hepworth depicted the surgeons with their instruments and with no patient present. Hence, the inner meaning of gesture and the dignity of the profession are explored as the central subjects of the work. Hepworth felt that the hand is not only ‘the most revealing and expressive part of the human body - it is also the visible extension of the brain and feeling generally. In watching an operation there is simply no end to the revelations of thought and idea conveyed by the contemplation of these hands at work’ (B. Hepworth, quoted in N. Hepburn, Barbara Hepworth: The Hospital Drawings, London, 2012, p. 95).

The artist's self-identification with the surgeons is suggested here in the highly-modelled hands and the surgical instruments, which are similar to the tools used by the sculptor. The work has a highly dynamic quality due to the energetic pencil marks on the surface, moving in various directions. The cool colour palette, consisting of ochre, grey, blue and white emphasises the serious nature of the subject matter. The surgeons also appear almost ghost-like, creating a mystical atmosphere and suggesting a boundary between their world and that of the viewer. The intense process of the surgery is transformed into a powerful yet serene composition, depicting people working together in harmony towards a common purpose.

Radial was exhibited at the XXV Venice Biennale, organised by the British Council, in the Summer of 1950, as no. 95, out of 11 selected Operating Theatre works (nos. 95-105).

E.C. Gregory (1988-1959), the first owner of the work, was a friend of Hepworth's and the managing director of the printing and publishing company Lund Humphries.

We are very 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 paintings and drawings.

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