In 1952 Hepworth recalled the exceptional period in which she created the present work, 'When war was declared in September 1939 I was in Cornwall where good friends had offered hospitality to the children. Early in 1940 we managed to find a small house and for the next three years ... I was not able to carve at all ... the only sculptures I carried out were some small plaster maquettes for the second 'sculpture with colour', and it was not until 1943, when we moved to another house, that I was able to carve this idea ... In St Ives I was fortunate enough to have constant contact with artists and writers and craftsmen who lived there, Ben Nicholson my husband, Naum Gabo, Bernard Leach, Adrian Stokes, and there was a steady stream of visitors from London who came for a few days rest, and who contributed in a great measure to the important exchange of ideas and stimulus to creative activity ... It was during this time that I gradually discovered the remarkable pagan landscape which lies between St Ives, Penzance and Land's End; a landscape which still has a very deep effect on me, developing all my ideas about the relationship of the human figure in landscape - sculpture in landscape and the essential quality of light in relation to sculpture which induced a new way of piercing the forms to contain colour ... The sea, a flat diminishing plane, held within itself the capacity to radiate an infinitude of blues, greys, greens and even pinks of strange hues; the lighthouse and its strange rocky island was an eye; the Island of St Ives an arm, a hand, a face ... I used colour and strings in many of the carvings of this time. The colour in the concavities plunged me into the depth of water, caves, or shadows deeper than the carved concavities themselves. The strings were the tension I felt between myself and the sea, the wind or the hill.' (B. Hepworth and H. Read, 'The War, Cornwall and the Artist in Landscape', op. cit., pages not numbered.).
Sculpture with Colour (Oval Form) is a larger, wood version of Hepworth's first sculpture with strings, the coloured plaster maquette made just before the outbreak of the war, Sculpture with Colour, White, Blue with Red Strings (BH 113A), which was the only sculpture she took with her to St Ives on 25 August 1939. The plaster was broken up and lost when cast in bronze in 1961 (as BH 113 B).
The second group of sculptures with strings are the five painted plasters entitled Sculpture with Colour (Deep Blue and Red), one of which is in Tate, London (BH 117 B of 1940) (fig. 1). This group was completed by the largest version, in painted wood (BH 118, private collection). BH 118 and 119 [the present work] are thus companion pieces in that both are the culmination of a sequence of plasters (akin to Ben Nicholson's practice of multiple variants of a painting or a relief), both are carvings in coloured wood and both date from 1943, the year Hepworth was able to return to carving. Unlike its pair, however, the present work is coloured pale blue in its interior (looking forward to Wave, 1943-4, and Pelagos, 1946), as opposed to ultramarine, and its strings, unusually, are of two colours, red and cream. Its hollowed oval form contrasts with the circular forms that BH 117 and 118 are based on.
These carvings are closely related to drawings Hepworth made during the war - when she had little opportunity to carve - of abstract stringed forms with colour, which are surrogate sculptures in many ways.
The present work was acquired directly from Hepworth by Helen Sutherland (1881-1965), the P. & O. heiress, an art collector and close friend of Hepworth, and undoubtedly one of the sculptor's most significant patrons. Sutherland went on to amass one of the most important collections of twentieth century British Art, a large selection of which was the subject of a touring exhibition in Britain in 1971. Robin Campbell, the Director of Art at the Hayward Gallery at the time, explained in his foreword to the catalogue, 'The Helen Sutherland Collection was that rare thing, a body of works, mostly of markedly avant-garde character, assembled ... for pleasure and interest and as the most real expression of friendship and faith. In the context of 1930s Britain it may well have been unique; anywhere and at any time it would be remarkable.' (Exhibition catalogue, The Helen Sutherland Collection: A Pioneer Collection of the 1930s, London, Hayward Gallery, 1971, p. 3).
Sculpture with Colour (Oval Form) Pale Blue and Red was bequeathed by Sutherland to her friend Nicolete Gray (1911-97) who owned it for over four decades.
For Barbara Hepworth, Henry Moore and Naum Gabo's use of strings, see note to lot 167.
Sculpture with Colour (Oval Form) Pale Blue and Red
Painted wood and string
PROPERTY FROM AN IMPORTANT PRIVATE EUROPEAN COLLECTION
Barbara Hepworth , 1940s, Sculptures, Statues & Figures, wood, Great Britain, abstract
London, Whitechapel Art Gallery, Barbara Hepworth Retrospective 1927-1954, April 1954, no. 36.
London, Tate Gallery, Barbara Hepworth, April - May 1968, no. 39.
London, Hayward Gallery, The Helen Sutherland Collection: A Pioneer Collection of the 1930s, December 1970 - January 1971, no. 14: this exhibition travelled to Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Laing Art Gallery, January - February 1971; Cambridge, Kettle's Yard, February - March 1971; Cardiff, National Museum of Wales, March - April 1971; and Kendal, Abbot Hall Art Gallery, May 1971.
London, Marlborough Fine Art, Barbara Hepworth Carvings, July - August 1982, no. 4.
London, Tate Gallery, St Ives 1939-64: Twenty Five Years of Painting and Sculpture, February - April 1985, no. 54, p. 66, illustrated.
Valencia, Institut Valencia d'Art Modern, Barbara Hepworth, September - November 2004, not numbered.
British & Irish Art
19¾ in. (50 cm.) long, including base
W. Gibson, Barbara Hepworth, London, 1946, pls. 48 and 49.
B. Hepworth and H. Read, Barbara Hepworth Carvings and Drawings, London, 1952, nos. 66b and 67, illustrated twice.
J.P. Hodin, Barbara Hepworth, London, 1961, no. 119, illustrated, incorrectly dated 1934.
Exhibition catalogue, Barbara Hepworth, London, Tate Gallery, 1968, pp. 16, 55, no. 39, illustrated.
Exhibition catalogue, Barbara Hepworth Carvings, London, Marlborough Fine Art, 1982, p. 12, no. 4, illustrated.
Exhibition catalogue, St Ives 1939-64: Twenty Five Years of Painting and Sculpture, London, Tate Gallery, 1985, p. 66, illustrated.
A.M. Hammacher, Barbara Hepworth, London, 1987, pp. 90-91, no. 63, illustrated.
M. Gale and C. Stephens, Barbara Hepworth Works in the Tate Gallery Collection and Barbara Hepworth Museum St Ives, London, 1999, p. 76, fig. 34.
Exhibition catalogue, Barbara Hepworth Centenary, London, Tate Gallery, 2003, p. 30, fig. 29.
Exhibition catalogue, Barbara Hepworth, Valencia, Institut Valencia d'Art Modern, 2004, p. 157, illustrated and on front cover.
Acquired directly from the artist by Helen Sutherland, London.
Acquired from the above by Nicolete Gray, London in 1966, and by descent.
Anonymous sale; Christie's, London, 1 July 1998, lot 20, where purchased by the present owner.