Dame Barbara Hepworth Forms (West Penwith) 1958

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Artwork details

Artist
Title
Forms (West Penwith)
Date 1958
Medium Oil paint and graphite on hardboard
Dimensions Support: 642 x 635 x 40 mm
Collection
Tate
Acquisition Presented by the artist 1964
Reference
T00700
Not on display

Catalogue entry

Dame Barbara Hepworth 1903-1975

T00700 Forms (West Penwith) 1958

Oil and pencil on hardboard

640 x 631 (25 3/16 x 24 7/8)

Inscribed on back in black paint 'Barbara Hepworth | 1958 oil | forms (West Penwith)' centre and in pencil [...]ara Hepworth' (partially obscured by label) bottom

Presented by the artist 1964

Exhibited:
Recent Works by Barbara Hepworth, Gimpel Fils, June 1958 (16)
Paintings by Francis Bacon, Paintings & Etchings by S.W. Hayter, Sculpture & Drawings by Barbara Hepworth, V Bienal do Museu de Arte Moderna São Paolo, Sept.-Dec. 1959 (Drawing 11)
Barbara Hepworth, BC tour of South America, Comisión National de Bellas Artes, Montevideo, Apr.-May 1960, Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes, Buenos Aires, May-June, Instituto de Arte Moderno, Santiago, Sept.-Oct., Museo de Bellas Artes, Viña del Mar (Chile), Oct., Museo de Bellas Artes, Caracas, Nov. 1960 (5)
Recent British Sculpture: Robert Adams, Kenneth Armitage, Reg Butler, Lynn Chadwick, Hubert Dalwood, Barbara Hepworth, Bernard Meadows, Henry Moore, Eduardo Paolozzi, BC tour of Canada, New Zealand, Australia, Japan and Hong Kong 1961-4, National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa, April-June 1961, Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, Aug.-Sept., Winnipeg Art Gallery, Sept.-Oct., Norman Mckenzie Art Gallery, Regina College, Nov., Art Gallery of Toronto, Jan.-Feb. 1962, Public Library and Art Museum, London, Ontario, Feb.-March, Vancouver Art Gallery, March-April, Auckland Institute and Museum, July, Dominion Museum, Wellington, Aug.-Sept., Otago Museum, Dunedin, Oct., Canterbury Museum, Christchurch, Nov.-Dec. 1962, West Australia Art Gallery, Perth, Jan.-Feb. 1963, National Gallery of Victoria, Melborne, July-Aug., Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, Sept.-Oct., Queensland Art Gallery, Brisbane, Nov.-Dec. 1963, Newcastle War Memorial Cultural Centre, Jan. 1964, Albert Hall, Canberra, Feb., Bridgestone Art Gallery, Tokyo and other Japanese venues, including Museum of Modern Art, Kyoto, July-Aug., City Hall Art Gallery, Hong Kong, Aug.-Sept. 1964 (40)
Barbara Hepworth Exhibition, 1970, Hakone Open-Air Museum, Japan, June-Sept. 1970 (46, repr.)

Literature:
Tate Gallery Report 1964-5, 1966, p.41

Reproduced:
A.M. Hammacher, Barbara Hepworth, 1968, rev. ed. 1987, p.135, pl.112
David Fraser Jenkins, Barbara Hepworth: A Guide to the Tate Gallery Collection at London and St Ives, Cornwall, 1982, p.44

On the smooth side of a nearly square sheet of hardboard, Hepworth painted three forms reminiscent of reclining figures for Forms (West Penwith). The technique was swift. A cream layer, applied in rough vertical strokes, took up colour from the underlying scraped-down paint: blue and orange, purple and grey are evident, the latter especially in the top left corner. The figure elements were superimposed in white, which was applied with a thick brush (perhaps 5 mm / 2 in.) in continuous angular strokes and again picked up colour. Blue was dragged through the top form, and grey through the lower two; conté crayon may also have been used here. The speed of the work (if not the result) is comparable to the contemporary Perigord (Tate Gallery T00701), but on Forms (West Penwith) the free technique was brought under control by the carefully ruled pencil lines. This device had been seen in Hepworth's more geometrical drawings of the 1940s.

The forms of head and shoulders are quite distinct to the right of the upper two figures and the left of the lower. They recall earlier realistic drawings of reclining female nudes propped on one elbow, especially Three Reclining Figures (Prussian Blue), 1951 (Peter Gimpel, repr. Alan Bowness, Barbara Hepworth: Drawings from a Sculptor's Landscape, 1966, pl.19 in col.). Forms (West Penwith) may also be related to the organic sculptures of 1933-4, especially the reclining Mother and Child, 1934 (Tate Gallery T06676), in which a similar rhythmic silhouette was used as a sign for the body. In a way only implied in the sculpture, the 1958 drawing made an equation between figure and landscape through these forms and the reference in the sub-title to the peninsular of western-most Cornwall. This recalls Hepworth's observation of a process of coalescence in drawings a decade before: 'If I go out to draw the landscape, I sometimes find my pencil turning to draw an idea for an abstract carving - the landscape is transformed into that on the spot' (letter to Herbert Read, 6 March [1948], Sir Herbert Read Archive, University of Victoria, B.C.). Such a combination is closely related to Hepworth's identification with the figure in the landscape. There is also a parallel with Henry Moore's related equation of body and landscape. However, the scarcity of reclining figures in Hepworth's work may be a measure of how far they were identified with Moore.

Along with Perigord, the drawing was amongst the works in Hepworth's 1964 gift to the Tate, which included the important carving Pelagos (Tate Gallery T00699). Shortly after, she stressed the coincidence of the pencil lines in the drawing with the strung elements in such abstract metal sculptures as Winged Figure I, 1957 (BH 228, Howard Baer, USA, repr. J.P. Hodin, Barbara Hepworth, 1961, pl.228), writing that it: 'related to all my stringed figures and wing figures of the period; but it would not be true to say that it was for any particular sculpture' (letter 3 March 1965, Tate Gallery Catalogue Files). She also acknowledged a formal relation to the notably bone-like bronzes Figure (Oread), 1958 (BH 237, private collection, Hodin 1961, pl.237) and Reclining Figure, 1958 (BH 238, private collection, Hodin 1961, pl.238). To these may be added Reclining Form (Trewyn), 1959 (BH 262, Trustees of the artist's estate, repr. Penelope Curtis and Alan G. Wilkinson, Barbara Hepworth: A Retrospective, exh. cat., Tate Gallery Liverpool 1994, p.128, pl.61 in col.), named, significantly, after her own studio.

Matthew Gale
March 1998


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