Three forms (Zennor Carn) is one of a group of around sixty slate carvings made by Hepworth in the 1960s and 1970s that are characterised by a smooth, highly polished finish and a richness of colour. Many are two-or-three part works on a relatively intimate scale. The first of Hepworth's sculptures in slate, Carving (Mylor), 1962-3, is said to have been carved from the top of a billiard table probably made of Welsh slate. Shortly afterwards, Hepworth was introduced to the famous Delabole slate quarry in north Cornwall. Delabole slate has been used as a building material for over 600 years. Hepworth's friend, the St Ives architect Henry Gilbert, was able to use his contacts to obtain slate for her at Delabole. 'Heart slate' from beds deep in the quarry was most suitable for carving. As she told Alan Bowness, "I found out that if they quarried very deeply in the slate quarry here at Delabole (in Cornwall) they could get a reasonable thickness for me, and a very fine quality - much finer than the top layers which are used industrially. So every time they come across what they consider a sculptor's piece, they telephone me. The slates from these deep beds are very beautiful."1
During the 1960s Hepworth became fascinated with a wide variety of coloured stones, as she had been at the beginning of her career. Alongside the white marble for which she had a special love, she carved, for example, black, grey and green marble from Ireland, pink marble from Portugal and green marble from Sweden. Her use of slate is an aspect of this heightened interest in colour. She made six sculptures that combine slate with white marble, bringing the contrasting nature of the materials to the fore.
The title, Three forms (Zennor Carn), relates the sculpture to one of the principal themes in Hepworth's work, the figure in the landscape. The ancient landscape of West Penwith at the far southwestern tip of England affected her deeply, with its prehistoric standing stones, stone circles and quoits. Cornish in its material, Three forms also has a Cornish title. 'Carn' is a Cornish word for a large rocky outcrop. (It can also refer to an ancient stone barrow). Zennor Carn is a granite outcrop on the moors above the village of Zennor, about four miles west of St Ives where Hepworth lived. Its massive rounded granite boulders and Logan (rocking) Stone are very sculptural in form. Nearby are Zennor and Sperris Quoits. Just below the top of Zennor Carn is the cottage where the painter Bryan Wynter lived from 1945 until 1964, The Carn. Hepworth's titles were added after a sculpture had been completed and were associations, never literal representations of a place.
The relationship of three forms had been of special importance to Hepworth since the 1930s (she had made the first three-part grouping in 1935, following the birth of her triplets the previous year), and she continued to make many variations on it.
Three forms (Zennor Carn) will be included as BH 391 in the catalogue raisonné of Hepworth's sculpture, currently under revision. It has the artist's original wooden base, painted black and lacquered. A number of the slate pieces are in public collections, for example Two Forms (Menhirs), 1964, in the Tate collection, Three Personages, 1965, in Kettle's Yard, Cambridge, and others at the Rijksmuseum Kröller-Müller, Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, Yale Centre for British Art, New Haven, and the Hirshorn Museum and Sculpture Garden in Washington.
We are very grateful to Dr Sophie Bowness for preparing this catalogue entry.
1 Quoted in conversation with Alan Bowness (ed.), The Complete Sculpture of Barbara Hepworth 1960-69, London, 1971, p. 8).