Dame Barbara Hepworth

Bronze Form (Patmos)

1962–3, cast 1963

In Barbara Hepworth Museum and Sculpture Garden

Dame Barbara Hepworth 1903–1975
Object: 710 × 970 × 250mm
Presented by the executors of the artist's estate 1980

Catalogue entry

Dame Barbara Hepworth 1903-1975

T03145 Bronze Form (Patmos) 1962-3, cast 1963

BH 321; cast 0/7

Bronze 654 x 950 x 241 (25 3/4 x 37 3/8 x 9 1/2) on bronze base 49 x 257 x 198 (1 15/16 x 10 1/8 x 7 3/4)

Presented by the executors of the artist's estate, in accordance with her wishes, 1980

Exhibited (ý = unidentified cast, ü = other cast):
Barbara Hepworth: Sculpture and Drawings, Gimpel Hanover Galerie, Zürich, Nov. 1963-Jan. 1964 (13ý, repr.)
Profile III: Englische Kunst der Gegenwart, Stadtisches Kunstgalerie, Bochum, April-June 1964 (62ý)
Spring Exhibition 1964, Penwith Society of Arts, St Ives, spring 1964 (sculpture 2ý, as Patmos)
Barbara Hepworth: Sculpture and Drawings, Gimpel Fils, June 1964 (13ý, repr.)
Summer Exhibition 1964, Penwith Society of Arts, St Ives, summer 1964 (sculpture 3ý)
Artists in Cornwall, Leicester University Arts Festival, 1965 (13ý)
Little Missenden Festival, Oct. 1965 (no cat.)
Barbara Hepworth, Marlborough-Gerson Gallery, New York, April-May 1966 (8ý, repr.)
Sculpture Contemporaine et Art Africaine, Galerie Lacloche, Paris, July-Sept. 1966 (32ý, cat. not traced)
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 (11ý, repr.)

Alan Bowness (ed.), The Complete Sculpture of Barbara Hepworth 1960-69, 1971, p.34 no.321, pl.65
David Fraser Jenkins, Barbara Hepworth: A Guide to the Tate Gallery Collection at London and St Ives, Cornwall, 1982, p.17, repr. p.36
Tate Gallery Acquisitions 1980-2, 1984, p.121, repr.

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

Extruded to one side and wrapped over an open cavity, Bronze Form (Patmos) is one of the bronze sculptures in which Barbara Hepworth achieved most elasticity of form. The yawning openings in the front are echoed on a reduced scale by those in the essentially flat back. The taut bridges of material enhance the sense of movement also found in the energetic handling of the surface. This is contrasted with the square base and smooth cylinder on which the form is poised.

The technique employed had been devised for the first bronzes of 1956. The plaster was carried on an armature of expanded aluminium which was easily manipulated into an organic form. This plaster version appears in the photograph in the catalogue raisonné (Bowness 1971, pl.65), and was exhibited at the Penwith Society's Autumn Exhibition 1968: Past and Present (Penwith Gallery, St Ives, Sept.-Nov. 1968, sculpture 10). The bronze edition (7 + 0) was made at the Art Bronze Foundry in Fulham; according to the artist's records she retained 0/7, which came to the Tate. The main form appears to have been cast in at least two pieces, as a seam is visible along the top. The cylindrical collar was cast separately, and both elements are held to the lower base by steel bolts. Hepworth chose a green and white patination; the high points are characteristically polished on the Tate's cast. Exposure in the artist's garden has resulted in damage by the elements. In 1983, the sculpture was lacquered but problems with the patchy wear of this treatment were recognised and, in 1989, most of the lacquer was removed and the surface was waxed(Tate Gallery Conservation Files).

The handling of Bronze Form (Patmos) is closely comparable to Sea Form (Porthmeor), 1958 (Tate Gallery T00957) and Oval Form (Trezion), 1961-3 (BH 304, British Museum, repr. Bowness 1971, pl.46), which share the horizontal emphasis and the potential or actual enclosure. The rolled-over form may relate to the observation of the sea, which is often cited in relation to Sea Form (Porthmeor) because of its title. However, this enclosure also occurs in Figure for Landscape, 1960 (Tate Gallery T03140) where the cavity is barred by a protective diagonal similar to that on Bronze Form (Patmos). The balance on the truncated cone of the collar echoes an earlier sandalwood carving, Hand Sculpture (Turning Form), 1953 (BH 189, private collection, repr. J.P. Hodin, Barbara Hepworth, 1961, pl.189), on which the implied rotation appears to have been made actual by locating the main form on a spindle. It should be noted that something of the rolled solidity of this wooden form is present in the small alabaster, related by title to the Tate's work: Curved Form (Patmos), 1960 (BH 284, private collection, repr. Bowness 1971, p.31).

The title, Bronze Form (Patmos), is notable in two respects. It was the only title in which Hepworth drew attention to the use of bronze, as if it was especially linked to the conception of the form. It was also unprecedented in the use of a Greek place name for a work in this material, with the exception of Epidauros II (BH 303, The Malakoff, St Ives Borough Council, repr. Bowness 1971, pl.43) which derived from Pierced Form (Epidauros) (Tate Gallery T03141), one of the guarea works habitually named after Greek locations. The reference to the Dodecanesian island has been associated with the theme of the sea as well as with the sculptor's visit in 1954 (Tate Gallery Acquisitions 1980-2, 1984, p.121). In notes relating to that trip which Hepworth prepared for publication not long after casting the bronze, she recalled her impressions of the view from the monastery at Patmos: 'an unbelievable panorama of indigo sea and deeply sculptured islands - Turkey lying far on the horizon in mist - purple and brown with little crowns of cloud round the summits' ('Greek Diary 1954-64', Walter Kern, ed., J.P. Hodin: European Critic: A Symposium, 1965, p.21). The memory of the visit was sharp, as Hepworth also told Edouard Roditi:

I saw a single black-robed Greek Orthodox priest standing beneath me in a snow-white courtyard, with the blue sea beyond and, on the curved horizon, the shores of other islands. This single human figure then seemed to me to give the scale to the whole universe, and this is exactly what a sculpture should suggest in its relationship to its surroundings
(Edouard Roditi, Dialogues on Art, 1960, p.101)

Hepworth viewed the landscape as gathering around and enfolding the figure, and this relates to the enclosing quality of Bronze Form (Patmos). Such concerns with the sensual and aesthetic placement of the figure in the landscape, which were central to her undertaking, assumed a wider spiritual dimension in relation to the island on which St John had his Revelation. By the sculptor's account, it was the isolation and the precipitous inclination of the view which located the form in relation to the setting. As Hepworth made clear in relation to other works, such as Curved Form (Trevalgan), 1956 (Tate Gallery T00353), the actuality implied by her subtitles referred less to a literal portrayal than to a shared sense of the experience of the place.

Matthew Gale
March 1998

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