Dame Barbara Hepworth Four-Square Walk Through 1966

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Artwork details

Four-Square Walk Through
Date 1966
Medium Bronze
Dimensions Object: 4290 x 1990 x 2295 mm
Lent by the Trustees of the Barbara Hepworth Museum 1980
On long term loan

Catalogue entry

Four-Square (Walk Through) 1966

BH 433; cast 0/3

Bronze 4290 x 1990 x 2295 (168 7/8 x 78 3/8 x 90 3/8)

Cast inscription on top of base 'Barbara Hepworth | 1966' and stamped '0/3' front right, stamped on front of base 'Morris | Singer | FOUNDERS | LONDON' t.l.

On loan from the artist's estate to the Barbara Hepworth Museum, St Ives

Exhibited (ý = unidentified cast, ü = other cast):
Barbara Hepworth, Tate Gallery, April-May 1968 (172, repr. in col. p.32)
Exhibition of British Sculpture, Coventry Cathedral, June-Aug. 1968 (19, as Four Square walkthrough)
Masters of Modern Sculpture, Marlborough Gallery, New York, May-June 1978 (35, repr.)
Barbara Hepworth: Carvings and Bronzes, Marlborough Gallery and Marlborough Gallery, New York, May-June 1979 (21ý, repr. p.33)

Edwin Mullins, 'Scale and Monumentality: Notes and Conversations on the Recent Work of Barbara Hepworth', Sculpture International, no.4, 1967, p.20, repr. under construction
Norbert Lynton, Guardian, 3 April 1968
Edwin Mullins, 'Barbara Hepworth' in Barbara Hepworth Exhibition, 1970, exh. cat., Hakone Open-Air Museum, Japan 1970, unpag., repr.
Alan Bowness (ed.), The Complete Sculpture of Barbara Hepworth 1960-69, 1971, pp.12-13, 44, no.433, pls.160-1
Sally Festing, Barbara Hepworth: A Life of Forms, 1995, pp.278-9
Derek Pullen and Sandra Deighton, 'Barbara Hepworth: Conserving a Lifetime's Work' in Jackie Heuman (ed.), From Marble to Chocolate: The Conservation of Modern Sculpture, 1995, pp.142-3, repr. in col. p.142 Reproduced:
A.M. Hammacher, Barbara Hepworth, 1968, rev. ed. 1987, p.192, pl.172 (col.)
'Some Sculpture by Barbara Hepworth', Studio International, vol.175, no.900, May 1968, p.253 (col.)
Barbara Hepworth, exh. cat., Marlborough Galerie AG, Zurich, 1975, front cover (col., detail with the artist)
Barbara Hepworth: A Pictorial Autobiography, 1970, New ed. 1978, p.128

Displayed in the artist's garden, Barbara Hepworth Museum, St Ives

'Barbara Hepworth's environmental sculpture' Edwin Mullins observed in 1970 'is never impersonal, or merely architectural in function. It is ... conceived as something the spectator may inhabit ... so that he may feel the sculpture to be an actual extension of himself' (Mullins 1970, unpag.). Four-Square (Walk Through), 1966 is the most extreme example of this approach in Hepworth's work, inviting unprecedented interaction. As the title indicates, the sculpture is there to be walked on and passed through in a way which is unmatched even with the otherwise related Three Obliques (Walk In), 1968 (BH 473, University College, Cardiff, repr. Bowness 1971, pls.183-4) and Two Forms (Divided Circle), 1969 (Tate Gallery L00937). This represents a notable departure in the mid 1960s, which the sculptor herself saw as relating to the confirmation of her international reputation.

In hindsight, Hepworth found roots for the achievement of monumental works in pre-war carvings such as Monumental Stela, 1936 (BH 82, repr. Herbert Read, Barbara Hepworth: Carvings and Drawings, 1952, pl.43) and Project (Monument to the Spanish Civil War), 1938-9 (BH 111, repr. ibid., pl.55). These abstractions were prominent points of reference in the second volume of the catalogue raisonn? (Bowness 1971, p.6) but they had been exceptional, as physical and financial conditions meant that afterwards Hepworth 'felt inhibited for a very long time over the scale on which I could work' (ibid., p.7). Around the time of her Venice Biennale exhibition of 1950, more figurative elements emerged in large works such as Bicentric Form, 1949 (Tate Gallery N05932) and with Contrapuntal Forms, 1950 (BH 165, Harlow Art Trust) for the Festival of Britain, 1951. However, the scale was limited by the physical restrictions of carving stone, and it was only when Hepworth added bronze to her repertoire in 1956 that the possibility of work on a grand scale opened up. The impact was felt in ensuing public commissions, such as Meridian, 1958-60 (BH 250), worked up from Garden Sculpture (Model for Meridian) (Tate Gallery T03139), and the United Nations' Single Form, 1961-4 (BH 325), derived from Single Form (September) (Tate Gallery T03143). Other large scale works of the early 1960s, notably Squares with Two Circles, 1963 (Tate Gallery T00702), anticipated Four-Square (Walk Through) in the adoption of geometrical forms through the piercing of rectangular slabs.

The inclination towards monumentality in Hepworth's work may be seen in the context of an increased demand for publicly sited art and a widespread belief in the importance of British sculpture; in 1967 one critic could refer to 'Britain, birthplace of modern sculpture' (Fabio Barraclough, 'Editorial', Sculpture International, no.4, 1967, p.10). Hepworth secured a number of public commissions, but was also aware of finding herself between the dominant personality of Henry Moore and the generation of the 'geometry of fear'. Although she admired the work of Reg Butler, Lynn Chadwick and others, she did not respond to their use of welded iron. Instead, some of her concerns with the interaction of sculpture and its environment related to those of the Constructionists Victor Pasmore and Kenneth and Mary Martin. In the 1960s, others were using sectional steel from construction sites - enlivened with bright colours - to introduce a new abstract quality to sculpture. Hepworth's former assistant Brian Wall was experimenting with these qualities. However different in effect, her Four-Square (Walk Through), 1966, may be compared with this new tendency typified by Anthony Caro's Early One Morning, 1962 (Tate Gallery T00805) or the American David Smith's Cubi XXVII, 1965 (Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, repr. Rosalind E. Krauss, Terminal Iron Works: The Sculpture of David Smith, Cambridge Mass. and London, 1971, p.142), whose work Hepworth must have known and which received renewed attention following his untimely death in 1965. In particular, both sought to define space on an architectural scale through rectilinear abstract elements.

Although Mullins reported that Hepworth 'never works from a maquette: "you can't blow things up"' (Mullins 1967, p.21), at least three different small scale works anticipate Four-Square (Walk Through). These are the slate works, Maquette for Large Sculpture: Four-Square (Four Circles), 1966 (BH 407, repr. Bowness 1971, pl.145 [comparative illustration]) and Four-Square (Four Circles), 1966 (BH 416, repr. ibid., pl.142), and the bronze cast of the latter, Four-Square (Four Circles), 1966 (BH 428, repr. ibid., p.43). The size of the slate maquettes - the first is 280 mm (11 in.) and the second 605 mm (24 in.) which Mullins called 'table-sized' (Mullins 1967, p.20) - suggests a process of scaling-up. Both of the maquettes establish some of the fundamental relationships of form. This included the rectangular form of the elements, the slippage between those of each pair - so that they project over the base to different extents - and the notable difference in height in the upper pair.

If some details were anticipated at the maquette stage, the making of Four-Square (Walk Through) was a considerable logistical undertaking requiring it to be reconceived on the large scale. The sculpture was made in plaster applied to an armature of angled and expanded aluminium, as demonstrated by a photograph of it in progress (repr. ibid.). A slight convexity of the broad planes - perhaps resulting from the weight of plaster on the aluminium - softened the geometry. Each element must have been cast separately at the foundry when the edition (3 + 0) was made. The artist retained 0/3, which was erected in the place of a rose bed in her studio garden; another cast (2/3) was lent to Churchill College, Cambridge (1968-73).

The metal armature meant that the size of the elements was determined in advance, with slight variations resulting from the thickness of the plaster applied on top. Although the title might suggest otherwise, there are five elements none of which is square; indeed, uniformity is only suggested, as each element is individual. The overlaying of rectangles of contrasting orientation begins with the base, which is broader across the entrance (335 x 1988 x 1578 mm; 13 13/16 x 78 1/4 x 62 1/8 in.) although the interior area is rectangular in the direction of passage (1110 x 1578 mm; 43 11/16 x 62 1/8 in.). The front of the sculpture - though it may be entered from either end - may be considered to be that bridged by the lowest element; this is the approach from the artist's studio and in her photographs (e.g. Bowness 1971, pl.160). The lower uprights are different widths and thicknesses. That on the left, which measures 1964 x 2125 x 260 mm (77 5/16 x 83 5/8 x 10 1/4), projects forward of the base by 212 mm (8 3/8 in.); that on the right, which is 1964 x 2214 x 252 mm (77 5/16 x 87 1/8 x 9 15/16 in.), only projects by 155 mm (6 1/8) but extends further at the back. This establishes the lower rectangles in the 'echelon' displacement favoured by the artist since works of the 1930s, such as Discs in Echelon (Tate Gallery T03132). This formation is also true of the upper tier. The low front element is a horizontal rectangle of c.1750 x 1900 x 214 mm (c.69 x 74 13/16 x 8 7/16 in.); it overhangs to the left by 310 mm (12 3/16 in.) but not at all to the right. The back element is vertical, at c.2000 x 1940 x 260 mm (c.78 9/16 x 76 3/8 x 10 1/4 in.), overhanging slightly to left and right (210 and 118 mm; 8 1/4 and 7 1/13 in. respectively). The recurrence of measurements close to 2 metres - approximately six and a half feet - suggests a relationship with a notional idea of the reach of a man of average height.

The holes served the vital purpose of alleviating this architectural passage. As well as articulating the light and the space, they afforded further interaction for the visitor; Hepworth herself posed for a photograph leaning in one of the holes (A Pictorial Autobiography, 1970, 2nd ed., 1978, p.128). These must also have been determined at the armature stage as they are angled and tapered rather than simple cylinders. That in the left hand element, for example, is a horizontal oval measuring 850 x 862 mm (33 1/2 x 34 in.) on the outside and diminishing to an interior circle (820 x 820 mm; 32 1/4 x 32 1/4 in.). It is set towards the top and front (355 mm / 14 in. down and from the edge), with the diminution noticeably funnelled the view towards the front of the sculpture. A similar effect is achieved in its companion in the right element. There the outer opening is a vertical oval (966 x 960 mm; 38 x 37 13/16 in.) diminishing to 817 x 783 mm (32 3/16 x 30 13/16 in.) on the inside face. It is set towards the top and back (400 mm / 15 3/4 in. down and 545 mm / 21 1/2 in. from the edge), and the hole is again funnelled towards the front.

The working of the plaster surface allowed Hepworth to distinguish between the finish of the different elements. Thus the sides of the base have finely grained swirls made, perhaps, by a broad brush working the wet plaster, while its top face is more deeply scarred with long sweeps of a toothed tool providing the grip appropriate for walking on. The surfaces of the upright elements contrast with this scouring and are closer to the surfaces achieved on Hepworth's other bronzes through the use of spatulas for applying plaster and then by carving back. However, the inner faces of the openings are smoothly worked; they are introduced by a bevel and are concave in section. The patination enhanced these distinct areas, by using contrasting green and red. The green of the major surfaces has been particularly exaggerated by weathering on the outside of the right element. The interiors to the openings are now reddish, and it has been suggested that these areas were originally highly polished and lacquered to maintain the sheen (Tate Gallery Loan Conservation Records). This proposal would seem to be substantiated by earlier photographs and the discovery in Hepworth's studio of a jar of dried yellow lacquer labelled 'Four-square (Walk through)' (Derek Pullen and Sandra Deighton, 'Barbara Hepworth: Conserving a Lifetime's Work' in Jackie Heuman (ed.), From Marble to Chocolate: The Conservation of Modern Sculpture, 1995, p.143, photographs before and after weathering repr. in col. p.142). A similar treatment is found on Divided Circle (Tate Gallery T03149).

All of these physical aspects of the sculpture related to Hepworth's anticipation of the response of the viewer. She agreed with Alan Bowness that she wanted 'people to feel the apertures' of her work (Bowness 1971, p.12), and went on to acknowledge in relation to Four-Square (Walk Through): 'I wanted to involve people, make them reach to the surfaces and the size, finding out which spiral goes which way, realising the differences between the parts'. In 1967, shortly after the completion of the work, Mullins reported:

This piece emphasises her insistence that the whole body must be engaged in response to sculpture. 'This engagement helps to orientate us - give us as image of security and a sense of architecture'. On another occasion [Hepworth said] 'You can't look at sculpture if you don't move, experience it from all vantage-points, see how the light enters it and changes the emphasis.'
(Mullins 1967, p.20)
Three years later, the same author observed that Hepworth's monumental sculpture 'is essentially humanist and intuitive, and indisputably to do with the human body. The organic principle has remained uppermost' (Mullins 1970, unpag.). Seeking to reconcile this with the recent rectilinear works, he added that under close inspection 'any apparent geometrical precision really is an illusion: each straight line is really a curve; no two rectangles are quite alike' (ibid.). Certainly the measurements suggest that forms were established by eye for Four-Square (Walk Through), as do the 'barely noticeable swellings of their sides' (Lynton 1968).

If Hepworth's unique invitation to 'walk through' one of her sculptures captured both a sense of the human scale and a wider 'humanism', she admitted that the monumentality of Four-Square (Walk Through) and associated works was born of a confrontation with mortality. Bowness raised the question of her simultaneous fight against cancer in 1966. Referring, once again to the pre-war sculptures, she acknowledged: 'Yes of course it was [related]. It was the same in 1938. If war is imminent, or you're very ill or something's threatening, you want to put something down for big work while you can. I was in an absolute fever of ideas, without much hope of fulfilment' (Bowness 1971, p.12). This conjunction of monumentality and mortality was more explicit in the contemporary coloured bronze Construction (Crucifixion) 1966 (BH 433, Salisbury Cathedral, repr. ibid., pl.16 in col.), a work which Bowness called 'an unexpected development'. In reply, Hepworth related it to her drawings and added 'I had been very ill, and I wanted to do it' (ibid., pp.13-14).

Hepworth's use of bronze for Four-Square (Walk Through) was characteristic, and massive geometrical slabs had already been used for Squares with Two Circles, 1963 (Tate Gallery T00702). In form, both looked back to the pre-war Monumental Stela, 1936. Nevertheless, the 1960s works were felt by Ben Nicholson to be uncomfortably close to his own reliefs, and Margaret Gardiner recalled unreasonable complaints of plagiarism (Festing 1995, p.279). During this period, he had also ventured on to a monumental scale with his temporary Wall for the 1964 Kassel Documenta (destroyed, repr. Norbert Lynton, Ben Nicholson, 1993, p.446). He may have expressed his views directly to his ex-wife, as Hepworth wrote to him in 1966: 'My small squares which you do not like so much are basically ideas for very large works to go on a hillside - and to walk through. Quite a different idea - to see through to the sky, night and day' (letter to Nicholson, 16 May 1966, TGA 8717.1.1.365). This defence alights on the crucial difference between the two monumental schemes. Where Nicholson's 1964 Wall enlarged the play of his layered reliefs and was protected by a pool, Four-Square (Walk Through) welcomed the participation of the visitor, to move through and touch, and to use its prospects to frame nature and the outside world. Space was to be experienced in a way which, curiously, Hepworth never explored again in quite the same terms.

Matthew Gale
March 1998

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