Dame Barbara Hepworth



In Barbara Hepworth Museum and Sculpture Garden

Dame Barbara Hepworth 1903–1975
Object: 337 × 345 × 256mm
Accepted by HM Government in lieu of inheritance tax and allocated to Tate 2005, accessioned 2006

Catalogue entry

Corymb 1959

BH 270; cast 1/9

Bronze 258 x 330 x 240 (10 1/4 x 13 x 9 1/2) on bronze base 18 x 215 x 170 (11/16 x 8 1/2 x 6 11/16)

Cast numeral on top of base '1/9' front left

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

Exhibited (ý = unidentified cast, ü = other cast):
Barbara Hepworth, Galerie Charles Lienhard, Zurich, Oct. 1960 (16ý, repr.)
Barbara Hepworth, Gimpel Fils, May-June 1961 (10)
?Aldeburgh Festival Exhibition 1961 (no catalogue traced)
Abstract Form and Life: Sculpture by Barbara Hepworth and Biological Models, Queens University of Belfast, April 1962 (1ý, repr.)
Barbara Hepworth: An Exhibition of Sculpture from 1952-1962, Whitechapel Art Gallery, May-June 1962 (50ý, repr.)
British Sculpture Today, Ashgate Gallery, Farnham, July 1962 (42a)
Autumn Exhibition, Penwith Society of Arts, St Ives, autumn 1962 (no numberý)
Christmas Exhibition, Penwith Society of Arts, Dec. 1965-Jan. 1966 (sculpture 1ý)
Barbara Hepworth, Tate Gallery, April-May 1968 (100, not shown)
St Ives Group: 2nd Exhibition, Festival Gallery, Bath, June 1969 (sculpture 3ý)
Barbara Hepworth: A Retrospective, Tate Gallery Liverpool, Sept.-Dec. 1994, Yale Center for British Art, New Haven, Feb.-April 1995, Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto, May-Aug. 1995 (62ý, repr. p.148)

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

Corymb, 1959 was executed in the early years of Barbara Hepworth's experimentation with making plasters specifically for casting in bronze. The development of a satisfactory personal process was a gradual one, but the fundamentals were established with Curved Form (Trevalgan), 1956 (Tate Gallery T00353) reputedly the first such sculpture. The system used was to cut and bend a sheet of expanded aluminium to the desired form - probably following a cardboard model - and then apply plaster (Brian Wall, interview with the author, 3 May 1996). The texture of application and of subsequent cutting and carving was captured in the cast.

Although Corymb is small by comparison to the capacious Curved Form (Trevalgan), they are formally related. The simple rising and curving sides of the earlier work had been shifted slightly so as not to stand in direct opposition; this was exaggerated in Corymb. The pair of rising forms are more twisted and splayed apart, with their uppermost corners curled-in so that the outer corners can turn away and open up the centre of the sculpture. These outer corners are on quite thin but textured planes; they are given added support by a step out to smoother bracing planes which reinforce them up to the topmost corners. Into the dynamic centre, Hepworth interposed a very similar curving form laid horizontally as a counterpoint. Its wings curve away to points. The joint by which they are attached to the uprights necessitated a sharp change of direction in the curvature of the plane. At its narrowest, the gap is bridged by three metal rods and the plugging of the joints has become more apparent with the passage of time and the exposure of the work in the artist's garden. The lowest hole on the horizontal element is now especially evident, as it has discoloured brown in contrast to the green of the patination.

The title is a botanical term. A 'corymb' is one of several types of 'indeterminate' inflorescence (or cluster of flowers) in which the lower buds are borne on longer stems (pedicels) giving the cluster a flat head of flowers. Hepworth had long been a keen gardener and the walled studio garden at Trewyn, where her works are sited, provided her with the opportunity to extend this enthusiasm. Although some coincidence of form may be found between a corymb and the sculpture, it is possible that a more general idea of inflorescence linked the two.

The absence of a signature or foundry stamp is typical of other works that Hepworth had cast at the Art Bronze Foundry in Fulham; these include Curved Form (Trevalgan). Of the edition (9 + 0), the artist's copy (1/9) is displayed in her garden, another (2/9) is now in the St?dtisches Museum, Leverkusen.

Matthew Gale
March 1998

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