‘It is difficult to describe in words the meaning of forms because it is precisely this emotion which is conveyed by sculpture alone … All my feeling has to be translated into this basic framework, for sculpture is the creation of a real object which relates to our human body and spirit as well as our visual appreciation of form and colour content. Therefore I am convinced that a sculptor must search with passionate intensity for the underlying principle of the organisation of mass and tension – the meaning of gesture and the structure of rhythm’. (Exhibition catalogue, Barbara Hepworth an Exhibition of Sculpture From 1952-1962, London, Whitechapel Art Gallery, n.p.)
The unification of space and harmony of form was of the upmost interest to Hepworth and is imbued in perfect balance in Two Forms with White (Greek). This is achieved through the simplicity of form, the purity of line and the considered juxtaposition of planes and apertures, which grants a lyricism and clarity to the work. The careful balance and manipulation of her two standing forms, not only creates an element of tension, the negative space between them becoming of equal importance to the mass, but employs a sense of rhythm and energy to the piece, which is highlighted by the tonal contrast of the dark green patina against the stark white elements. What resonates in this piece is a heightened tactility. Hepworth described the importance of the sensation of touch, which she saw gave life and vitality to her work. She described; ‘Sculpture affects the human mind through the senses of sight and touch. Sculpture communicates an immediate sense of life – you can feel the pulse of it. It is perceived above all by the sense of touch which is our earliest sensations; and touch gives us a sense of living contact and security. Hence the vital power of sculpture’ (J.P. Hodin, Barbara Hepworth, London, 1959, p. 23).
One of the most powerful forces that lie within Hepworth’s work is the duality between abstraction and naturalism. This is felt most potently in Two Forms with White (Greek), which combines the symbolic and abstract, the non-representational and naturalistic. Works of this period can be seen to have a dialogue with her sculptures of the 1930s, where forms were reduced to simple geometric shapes, which highlighted the tautness of volume in space and the delineation of line and plane. Hepworth’s continued interest in the abstraction of forms and the search for a purity of style and clarity within her work can be seen to be, in part, resultant of her life with Ben Nicholson, whom she was married to from 1938-1953, whose clean, harmonious aesthetic resonated with her own. It can also be assimilated with the work of Naum Gabo, who became a close friend and neighbour of the couple in 1935. His geometric, non-figurative spatial and constructivist ideals impressed Hepworth, as did his emphasis on the importance of the artist’s emotional attitude to material. During this period Hepworth was exposed to the ideas of neo-plasticism and constructivism, working with Gabo on the book Circle, along with architect Leslie Martin and later Piet Mondrian, who stayed in London in 1938, however their ideals were too absolutist for Hepworth to fully adopt. Bryan Robertson explains: ‘Hepworth was affected rather than directly influenced by the work of these innovators, standing in direct spiritual opposition to each other; and the steadily growing strength of her imagination rapidly engendered a conception of sculpture which is entirely her own’ (Exhibition catalogue, Barbara Hepworth’s sculpture from 1952-1962, Whitechapel Art Gallery, n.p.).
Indeed her propensity for nature and the unification of her sculpture with the figure in the landscape prevented her from attempting absolute suppression and destruction of form. She believed that the unity of man with nature was one of the basic impulses of sculpture, which in turn could convey a metaphor of man’s physical and spiritual condition. As presented in Two Forms with White (Greek) she saw that this was most effectively portrayed through standing, upright forms, which spoke of a human element. Portraying two forms here, Hepworth hints at a generational correlation; their pairing alluding to a maternal relationship. Peter Murray described that her forms never lost a human significance and that they should be seen as ‘equivalents of the relationships of one person to another- man to woman, mother to child, or of each of us to the natural landscape’ (Exhibition catalogue, Barbara Hepworth, Yorkshire Sculpture Park, 1980, p. 7). Her identification with the figure in the landscape began at a young age with her love of the rugged, unspoilt landscape of Yorkshire, where she grew up. This increased with an almost mystical intensity, with her move to the Cornish coast in 1939, becoming a totally inseparable element from her work. She described the early and everlasting effect it had on her, ‘All my early memories are of forms, shapes and textures. Moving through and over the West Riding landscape with my father in his car, the hills were sculptures; the roads defined the form. Above all, there was the sensation of moving physically over the contours of fullness and cavities, through hollows and over peaks – feeling, touching, seeing, through mind and hand and eye. This sensation has never left me. I, the sculptor; am the landscape. I am the form and I am the hollows, the thrust and the contour’ (A.G. Wilkinson, exhibition catalogue, Barbara Hepworth, Toronto, Musée des Beaux Arts de l’Ontario, 1991, p. 9).
One landscape that had an enormous affect on Hepworth’s work was that of Greece and the Aegean and Cycladic Islands, which she visited in August 1954 with her great friend Margaret Gardiner. Her writings on the place describe in poetic intensity her thrill of experiencing the ancient architecture and the stunning wild scenery. She recalled, ‘Timeless and in space, pure in conception and like a rock to hold on to these forms in Greece have been a constant source of inspiration - Patmos in particular, where the curve of the horizon was omnipotent and the islands rose up from the water like flowers in the sun’ (A. Bowness (intro.), Barbara Hepworth, drawings from a sculptor’s landscape, London, 1966, p. 12). Hepworth highlights the influence that Greece had on the present work with her choice of title. What struck her most in the natural beauty of the landscape and the Classical Greek architecture was proportion and space, which was to have a profound affect on the artist’s work for years to come. In visiting the Parthenon she enthused; ‘the space between the columns – the depth of the fluting to touch – the breadth, weight and volume – the magnificence of a single marble and all – pervading philosophic proportions and space’ (A.M. Hammacher, Barbara Hepworth, London, 1987, p. 112).
Indeed the manipulation of space was perhaps the greatest lesson she took from her travels, and is seen in powerful effect in Two Forms with White (Greek), where Hepworth instils a sense of spatial tension between the two forms, transforming the space in between them into intermediate or anti-forms. Henri Frankfort, archaeologist and critic, spoke of the power of negative space in the artist’s work, he retorted; ‘Even as in music, not only sounds but silences enter into the rhythm of the composition, so matter and empty space form in their harmony of these carvings’ (ibid., p. 61). Frankfort stressed the importance of controlling and containing space, highlighting Hepworth’s use of bases, as seen here, as an effective means, he stated, ‘But space unlimited cannot enter into the order which is a work of art. It is the function of the oblong slab to give it definition, to delimit with precision that special individuality of each work as a whole’ (ibid., p. 61).
One of Hepworth’s most successful deployments of space was the introduction of apertures into her work. As beautifully portrayed in Two Forms with White (Greek) this allowed for the interplay of solid and void, unifying the internal and external and harmonising the sculpture within its landscape. By piercing the mass space and light could not only circulate around but through the volumes, which in turn brought an inner life to the enclosed form. Hepworth described this process as conveying, ‘a sense of being contained by a form as well as containing it’ (M. Gale and C. Stephens (ed.), Barbara Hepworth works in the Tate Gallery Collection and Barbara Hepworth Museum St Ives, London, 1999, p. 200). In this method a new function of light and space within sculpture revealed itself, and a new aesthetic was born, which Hepworth would continue to pursue with unbound enthusiasm throughout her life. Hodin stressed the importance of harnessing light, stating, ‘The wholeness of the object lies, not…in the roundness alone, not in seclusion from the outer world, but in the penetration of light and air into the closed form, in the new entity of figure surrounding space’ (J.P. Hodin, Barbara Hepworth, London, 1959, p. 19).
Light became of paramount importance to Hepworth who saw it as an essential component in the apprehension of space and volume and a primeval part of life. One effective method of conveying light was the inclusion of colour, which Hepworth uses to striking effect in Two Forms with White (Greek). Pairing u-shapes of clean white with the rich dark green patination of the bronze, she highlights the relationship and tension between form and colour. Hepworth used colour in an organic manner, often choosing pale tones, such as chalky blues and whites that were evocative of the sea and sky. This association can be supported by Hepworth’s retrospective statement, in which she described, ‘The colour in the concavities plunged me into the depth of water, caves, or shadows deeper than the carved concavities themselves’ (H. Read, Barbara Hepworth, Carvings and Drawings, London, 1952, section 4, n.p.). Mostly applied in the hollows, Hepworth uses colour to delineate and accentuate the contrast between exterior and interior surfaces, which in turn emphasised their associations with the natural landscape through the evocation of light. Although she experimented with colour in London, Hepworth began to really explore the possibilities of colour when she moved to Cornwall with her then husband Ben Nicholson and their three children in 1939. This renewed interest can be seen as symptomatic of her love for the Cornish landscape and is believed by some to be, in part, owed to the influence of Adrian Stokes, who they shared a house with in Carbis Bay. Here Hepworth was exposed to his theories on colour in art, which he had published some years earlier in his 1937 book Colour and Form, where he discussed the relationship between colour and sculpture, in which he stated; ‘Carving colour gives the interior life, the warmth, to composition ... the simultaneous life of the blood’.
Conceived in 1961 Two Forms with White (Greek) marks a point of great accomplishment in Hepworth’s career. Building on the success of the Festival of Britain in 1951, her retrospective exhibition at the Whitechapel Art Gallery in 1954 and the Grand Prix win at the 1959 Venice Biennale, Hepworth now had the financial freedom to work in bronze on a larger scale, attracting a multitude of public commissions. Hepworth’s increased use of bronze allowed for the exploration of a new formal language, creating a diversity of shapes and open spaces, which could never be realised in stone or wood. Working directly in plaster, rather than modeling in clay, Hepworth continued carving, producing rich textured surfaces, which remained within her idiom of truthfulness to material, which she saw was fundamental in the creation of sculpture.
Another cast of this work is in the collection of Palm Springs Art Museum, California (4/7).
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.
Dame Barbara Hepworth (1903-1975)
Signed, inscribed, dated and numbered ‘Barbara Hepworth CAST 1969 5/7/Morris/Singer/FOUNDERS/LONDON’ (on the back of the base)
Barbara Hepworth , 20th Century, Sculptures, Statues & Figures, bronze, England, Modern
London, Marlborough Fine Art, Barbara Hepworth Recent Work: Sculpture, Paintings, Prints, February - March 1970, no. 34, another cast exhibited.
London, Gimpel Fils, Gallery Choice, March - April 1970, no. 33, another cast exhibited.
London, Syon Park, Open Air Sculpture II, Summer 1970, no. 12, another cast exhibited.
Plymouth, Art Gallery, Barbara Hepworth Retrospective Exhibition, June - August 1970, no. 40, another cast exhibited.
Hakone, Open-Air Museum, Barbara Hepworth Exhibition 1970, June - September 1970, no. 13, another cast exhibited.
Winchester, The Cathedral Close, Ten Sculptures - Two Cathedrals, July- August 1970, no. 9, another cast exhibited: this exhibition travelled to Salisbury, Cathedral Close, August - September 1970.
New York, Gimpel Gallery, Barbara Hepworth, March - April 1971, no. 18, another cast exhibited.
Austin, University of Texas Art Museum, Barbara Hepworth, September 1971, no. 12, another cast exhibited.
London, Gimpel Fils, Barbara Hepworth: 50 Sculptures from 1935 to 1970, October - November 1975, no. 43, another cast exhibited.
Edinburgh, Royal Botanic Garden, Barbara Hepworth: Late Works, August - September 1976, no. 10.
London and New York, Marlborough Gallery, Barbara Hepworth: Carvings and Bronzes, May - June 1979, no. 38, another cast exhibited.
Wakefield, Yorkshire Sculpture Park, Barbara Hepworth, July - October 1980, no. 21, another cast exhibited.
New York, Wildenstein, Barbara Hepworth: Sculptures from the Estate, October - November 1996, not numbered, another cast exhibited.
Valencia, Institut Valencià d’Art Modern, Barbara Hepworth, September - November 2004, not numbered, another cast exhibited.
Warwickshire, Compton Verney, on long term loan, 1995-2005.
Chichester, Pallant House Gallery, on long term loan, 2010-2014.
Modern British & Irish Art
39 3/8 in. (100 cm.) high, including base, 48 in. (122 cm.) wide
‘New Works by Barbara Hepworth’, Studio, January, 1970, p. 23, another cast illustrated.
Exhibition catalogue, Barbara Hepworth Recent Work: Sculpture, Paintings, Prints, London, Marlborough Fine Art, 1970, pp. 8, 35, no. 34, another cast illustrated.
Exhibition catalogue, Open Air Sculpture II, London, Syon Park, 1970, p. 26, and illustrated on the back cover, no. 12, another cast illustrated.
Exhibition catalogue, Gallery Choice, London, Gimpel Fils, 1970, n.p., no. 33, another cast illustrated.
Bijutsu Techo Japanese Monthly Art Magazine, August 1970, p. 10.
Exhibition catalogue, Barbara Hepworth Exhibition 1970, Hakone, Open-Air Museum, 1970, pp. 32, 73, no. 13, another cast illustrated.
Exhibition catalogue, Barbara Hepworth, New York, Gimpel & Weitzenhoffer Gallery, 1971, n.p., no. 18, another cast illustrated.
A. Bowness (ed.), The Complete Sculpture of Barbara Hepworth 1960-69, London, 1971, p. 49, no. 491, another cast illustrated.
Exhibition catalogue, Barbara Hepworth: 50 Sculptures from 1935 to 1970, London, Gimpel Fils, 1975, no. 43, another cast illustrated.
Exhibition catalogue, Barbara Hepworth: Late Works, Edinburgh, Royal Botanic Garden, 1976, p. 18, another cast illustrated.
Exhibition catalogue, Barbara Hepworth: Carvings and Bronzes, New York, Marlborough Gallery, 1979, pp. 9, 50, no. 38, another cast illustrated.
Exhibition catalogue, Barbara Hepworth, Wakefield, Yorkshire Sculpture Park, 1980, pp. 13, 27, no. 21, another cast illustrated.
Exhibition catalogue, Barbara Hepworth: Sculptures from the Estate, New York, Wildenstein, 1996, pp. 28, 62, 63, 108, another cast illustrated.
Exhibition catalogue, Barbara Hepworth, Valencià, Institut Valencia d’Art Modern, 2004, pp. 63, 67, 196-197, another cast illustrated.
S. Bowness (ed.), Barbara Hepworth - The Plasters: The Gift to Wakefield, Farnham, 2011, pp. 56-57, 93, another cast illustrated.
with Marlborough Fine Art, London, where purchased by Sebastian Walker, March 1980.
with Browse and Darby, London, where purchased by Sir Peter Moores, Compton Verney.
with Fine Art Society, London.
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