Dame Barbara Hepworth Spring 1966

Artwork details

Artist
Title
Spring
Date 1966
Medium Bronze
Dimensions Object: 850 x 570 x 530 mm
Collection
Tate
Acquisition Accepted by HM Government in lieu of inheritance tax and allocated to Tate 2005, accessioned 2006
Reference
T12278

Catalogue entry

Spring 1965, cast 1966

L00936
BH 430; cast 0/6

Bronze with strings 774 x 570 x 530 (30 1/2 x 22 7/16 x 20 1/2) on bronze base 76 x 505 x 505 (3 x 19 3/4 x 19 3/4)

Inscribed on top of base 'Barbara Hepworth 1966' and stamped '0/6' front left, stamped on back 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):
Autumn Exhibition, Penwith Society of Arts, St Ives, Aug.-Sept. 1967 (sculpture 2ü)
Barbara Hepworth, Tate Gallery, April-May 1968 (170ü)
L'Art Vivant 1965-68, Fondation Maeght, Saint-Paul de Vence, April-June 1968 (114)
Sculpture Exhibition: City of London Festival, Daily Mirror, 33 Holborn, July 1968 (no number)
?Syon Park, summer 1968 (cat. not traced)
?Penwith Society of Art, St Ives 1968 (not in spring, summer or autumn cats.)
Exhibition on the Occasion of the Conferment of the Honorary Freedom of the Borough of St Ives on Bernard Leach and Barbara Hepworth, St Ives parish churchyard, Sept.-Oct. 1968 (no cat)
Barbara Hepworth, Gimpel Gallery, New York, April-May 1969 (6, repr. [p.14])
Barbara Hepworth Exhibition, 1970, Hakone Open-Air Museum, June-Sept. 1970 (22ü, repr.)
Barbara Hepworth: Sculpture and Lithographs, AC tour 1970-71, Abbotsholme, Uttoxeter, Jan.-Feb. 1970, Ashmolean Museum, Oxford, Feb.-March, Castle Museum, Nottingham, March-April, Manor House Art Gallery and Museum, Ilkley, April-May, Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, Edinburgh, May, Belgrade Theatre, Coventry, June, Shrewsbury Art Gallery, July, Letchworth Museum and Art Gallery, Aug., Kettering Art Gallery, Aug.-Sept., National Museum of Wales, Cardiff, Sept.-Oct., Ede Gallery, Cambridge, Oct.-Nov., Towner Art Gallery, Eastbourne, Nov.-Dec, Southampton Art Gallery, Dec. 1970-Jan. 1971 (13ý, repr.)
Barbara Hepworth: Recent Work: Sculpture, Paintings, Prints, Marlborough Fine Art, Feb.-March 1970 (7ý, repr. p.17)
Barbara Hepworth 1903-1975, Marlborough Galerie, Zurich, Aug.-Oct. 1975 (3, repr. p.17)
Barbara Hepworth: Late Works, Edinburgh Festival Society, Royal Botanic Garden, Edinburgh, Aug.-Sept. 1976 (6ý, repr.)
Barbara Hepworth, Yorkshire Sculpture Park, July-Oct. 1980 (16, repr. p.23)

Literature:
Alan Bowness (ed.), The Complete Sculpture of Barbara Hepworth 1960-69, 1971, p.44, no.430, pls.10 (col.) and 159

Reproduced:
A.M. Hammacher, Barbara Hepworth, 1968, rev. ed. 1987, p.191, pl.171
Bijutsu Techo, Aug. 1970, p.25

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

Barbara Hepworth cast Spring, 1966 from the original elm carving of the previous year: Oval Form with Strings and Colour, 1965 (BH 382, artist's estate, repr. Bowness 1971, pl.125). Just as with the walnut original of River Form, 1965 (Tate Gallery L00939) and the Tate's Hollow Form with White, 1965 (Tate Gallery T00960) in elm, the carving displays on its smooth outer surface the broad graining of the wood. All have the tapering form of the original bole of wood. Oval Form with Strings and Colour has concave hollows cut from front and back which intersected at the heart of the sculpture to create an oval opening; threads crossed from the outer to the inner ovals. As well as expressing Hepworth's perennial exploration of the duality of interior and exterior, the carving out reduced the mass of drying wood and therefore the risk of cracking. As the title indicated, the interior of Oval Form with Strings and Colour was painted (blue), a practice initiated with such carvings as Pelagos, 1946 (Tate Gallery T00699).

The forms were carried over to the bronze Spring, although some effects were modified in the process. The grained exterior of the wood became the smooth surface with mottled brown patination; the green now evident on the top being caused by weathering and bird lime. The painted interior was rendered as blue-green patination. It is likely that these modifications, which are found in the similar transfer of Hollow Form with White, were anticipated at the time of carving as the cast followed almost immediately. The forms did not change; at 530 x 390 mm (20 3/4 x 15 3/8 in.) the height of the larger aperture is close to the depth of the whole sculpture; the smaller opening is 475 x 300 mm (18 3/4 x 11 13/15 in.). The stringing - in two crossed-over series - also follows the original. From the top right of the front outer rim, it passes through the left edge of the central oval to cross to the left outer rim of the back; there, in order to make the return, it is threaded along the rim - in the same way as found on Pelagos. The second series of strings traces a reciprocal course from opposite sides, so that the two groups cross as they converge towards the core of the sculpture. Not surprisingly, the threads have bleached and sagged as a result of being displayed outdoors. Of the edition (6 + 0), the artist's copy was retained for display in the studio garden. Another entered the Arts Council collection (1/6) and that shown in the artist's 1970 exhibition in Japan (4/6) was purchased by the Museum of Modern Art, Kyoto.

In conjunction with the title, the ovoid form of Spring suggests Hepworth's long-standing concerns with the cycles of nature and the promise of rebirth. She shared these themes with Brancusi, whose studio had so impressed her in 1933 and whose work invested the egg with formal purity and conceptual complexity. In Hepworth's lost early work Figure (Mother and Child), 1933 (BH 52, repr. J.P. Hodin, Barbara Hepworth, 1961, pl.52), the sheltered child had been ovoid in shape. In 1946, at a time when she first exhibited the carved version of Oval Sculpture, 1943 (Tate Gallery T00953), she recognised in her early work the 'simple realistic oval forms of the human head or of a bird' ('Approach to Sculpture', Studio, vol.132, no.643, Oct. 1946, p.97). Oval Form with Strings and Colour continued this passage from realism to abstract form. With its bronze version, Spring, and a similar work in Swedish green marble, Oval with Black and White, 1965 (BH 387, artist's estate, Bowness 1971, pl.127), the ovoid was simultaneously explored in three different materials in 1965-6.

Matthew Gale
March 1998

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