Dr. Sophie Bowness will include this sculpture in her forthcoming revised Hepworth catalogue raisonné under the catalogue number BH 227.
By 1956, Barbara Hepworth had become interested in working with metal, specifically brass and copper (see Forms in Movement [Galliard], BH 212), enabling fresh experimentation and innovation. She moved away from an exclusive interest in carving, responding to the techniques of younger sculptors such as Reg Butler and Lynn Chadwick. Soon afterwards she would resume work in bronze.
A new openness, delicacy and lightness characterize Winged Figure
and the related Curlew and Orpheus sculptures in sheet metal. The present motif, with its uplifting brass form, thickly applied Isopon--polyester resin fiber typically used as car body filler--which gives the base and reverse its distinctive texture--and tightly wound metal string, exemplifies the artist's foray into metals in the late 1950s. Each example from the edition accordingly varies slightly. The present version was acquired by the family of the present owner shortly after it was executed in 1959.
An enlargement of the present work was commissioned by the John Lewis Partnership for the south-east wall of their flagship store on London's Oxford Street: "Her first proposal was, in fact, not what you see today, but a piece called Three Forms in Echelon. However John Lewis rejected this design as being insufficiently like a Hepworth. She then proposed an enlarged version of an existing sculpture Winged Figure I. This was accepted by John Lewis, and the prototype was made in St Ives in the yard of the Palais de Danse, initially in wood, and then in aluminium" (S. Bowness, Interview with Simon Grant, 1 December 2011). This larger version was unveiled on 23 April 1963 and continues to grace the side of the prominent department store building.
(fig. 1) The final version in situ on the John Lewis Building, Oxford Street, London, 1963.