‘I feel that direct carving is a fundamental part of the development of man and his attitude to the future’ (B. Hepworth, quoted in M. Shepherd, Barbara Hepworth, London, 1963).
During the 1960s, Hepworth reignited her fascination with a wide variety of coloured stones, and her use of slate is an aspect of this heightened interest in colour. Two Forms (Orkney) belongs to a series of around sixty slate carvings by Hepworth in the 1960s and 1970s which 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. Her first sculpture 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, where the slate has been used as a building material for over 600 years. Henry Gilbert, the St Ives architect and friend of Hepworth, used 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’ (quoted in conversation with Alan Bowness (ed.), The Complete Sculpture of Barbara Hepworth 1960-69, London, 1971, p. 8).
The title of the present work, Two Forms (Orkney), relates the sculpture to one of the principal themes in Hepworth's work, the figure in the landscape. 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.
The present work was cast in bronze in an edition of 9 + 0 in 1967 (BH 441), and there are two plaster versions, one in Wakefield, and another which Hepworth probably returned to is in the plaster studio at the Barbara Hepworth Museum, St Ives, laid flat on a shelf (see S. Bowness, ibid., p. 153).
We are very grateful to Dr Sophie Bowness for her providing information in preparing this catalogue entry. Dr Sophie Bowness is preparing the revised catalogue raisonné of Hepworth's sculpture.