Dr. Sophie Bowness will include this work in her forthcoming revised Hepworth catalogue raisonné under the catalogue number BH 482.
Among the most imposing sculptures in Hepworth's oeuvre are her "Single Forms"—tall, vertical works that evoke the grandeur and power of the standing human figure. These columnar structures possess a totemic character, which also derives from architectural elements, an integral part of Hepworth's inspiration and working process. Hepworth had long appreciated the importance of the sculpture and architecture of the ancient civilizations around the Mediterranean as well as from the soaring forms in Gothic architecture. In 1950 Hepworth exhibited in the British Pavilion of the 25th Venice Biennale, where she was inspired by the interplay of space between architecture and people walking through the Piazza San Marco: "Against the superb proportions of the buildings set in the expanded flatness of water...rising out of the ribboned canals where one is so aware of the magnitude of the sky, I watched new movements of people. The animation of the light and shadow over earth colors of black, white, grey, and red in the architecture was so vital in relation to the proportions of mass and space that every human action against this setting seemed to be vested with a new importance...All of these events pertained to what for me are the dynamic properties of sculpture. If human beings respond so decisively to mood and environment, and also to space and proportion in architecture, than it is...imperative that we should, rediscover those perceptions in ourselves, so that architecture and sculpture can in the future evoke those definite responses in human beings which grew with Venice and still live today" (quoted in H.E. Read, Barbara Hepworth, Carvings and Drawings, London, 1952, n.p.).
The present bronze was preceded by a teak version in 1963, entitled Single Form (Bowness, no. 471) that was initially made as the interior element for a wooden sculpture, Hollow Form (Bowness, no. 330). In 1968, Hepworth made a bronze edition from the original wooden sculpture, entitled Hollow Form with Inner Form (Bowness, no. 469; fig. 1). By casting her sculptures made from natural materials in bronze, Hepworth was able to create more durable versions and demonstrates her commitment to presenting sculpture in the open air. Single Form (Aloe) embodies a harmony and rhythm within itself; elegant and serene, rich and hieratic, it is perhaps a symbol of the integrated human being. As a stand-alone work, the uprightness and freedom of the present sculpture is a bold counterpoint to the encapsulated, enclosed form seen in Hollow Form with Inner Form, showing Hepworth’s enduring preoccupation with examining how the human figure interacts with the surrounding world.
(fig. 1) Barbara Hepworth, Hollow Form with Inner Form, 1968. Tate, St. Ives.