In the hope that spring might actually make it to the UK soon, this week’s work is Forms in Movement (Pavan) by Barbara Hepworth, on permanent display in the artist’s garden, part of the Barbara Hepworth Museum in St Ives. Hepworth was born in Wakefield, Yorkshire in 1903. She trained in sculpture at Leeds School of Art and the Royal College of Art. Hepworth was one of the leading figures in British modernism, a member of the Seven & Five society and part of the movement associated with direct carving. She was married first to the artist John Skeaping and later to Ben Nicholson. Living in Hampstead before the Second World War they were all part of an artists’ community that included artists such as Henry Moore and was well connected in the international art world. She is one of very few women artists of the period to gain international prominence. Hepworth moved to St Ives, Cornwall in 1939, after the outbreak of war extended a holiday. St Ives enjoyed a period of international prominence in the art world after the war - and Hepworth was especially active within the modernist artistic community there. During the 1950s Hepworth began to move from her traditional stone and wood carving to increasingly make sculpture in bronze as well, experimenting with armatures and sheet metal, allowing her to work on a more monumental scale. The strength and flexibility of the metal allowed Hepworth to bend it to describe space without filling it. Forms in Movement (Pavan) was cast in bronze from a work she made with concrete applied over an aluminium armature. Its form was based on a previous work, made in copper: Forms in Movement (Galliard) 1956. Galliardes and Pavanes were sixteenth-century dances, the first quick and lively and the second more stately and processional. Both sculptures convey the rhythmic quality of movement, though fittingly the Pavan is more measured and grand. Dicon Nance recalled working on Forms in Movement (Pavan) when he became an assistant to Hepworth, describing the process beginning with the armature which was:
‘expanded steel “metal lathing” as it is called in the building trade, and the cement was applied in small quantities over several days. This made a surprisingly strong and homogeneous structure… Like all Barbara’s versions … there was no attempt at making a replica with all the attendant measurements. Each form, though basically as the original, was judged on its own, especially if there was a change in scale’
The concrete of the original work had become brittle and was destroyed in the process of casting it in bronze. The cast of Forms in Movement (Pavan)retains the roughened surface of the concrete and the flat edges resulting from the armature. Hepworth’s Trewyn Studio where she worked from 1949 until her death in 1975 is now the Hepworth Museum. Hepworth said:
‘Finding Trewyn Studio was a sort of magic, here was a studio, a yard and garden where I could work in open air and space’.
Hepworth used the garden as a viewing area, and bronzes such as Forms in Movement (Pavan) were created for the garden and mostly remain where she herself placed them. You can visit the garden every day throughout the summer months or you can explore the garden online at Tate Kids.