Dame Barbara Hepworth

Forms in Echelon


On loan

Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art 2 (Edinburgh, UK): Barbara Hepworth

Dame Barbara Hepworth 1903–1975
Tulipwood on elm base
Object: 1080 × 600 × 710 mm
Presented by the artist 1964

Display caption

Hepworth and her husband Ben Nicholson were key figures in the modern movement in Britain in the 1930s. Their circle became increasingly important as European artists such as Naum Gabo and Piet Mondrian fled to London. This work relates to her interest in situating sculpture in the landscape: an early image showed it superimposed onto a photograph of a garden. ‘The sculpture has an upward growth but the curves of the two monoliths make a closed composition which, in the open, with light all round, they create a quietness, a pause in the progress of the eye’, Hepworth said.

Gallery label, November 2016

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Catalogue entry

Dame Barbara Hepworth 1903-1975

T00698 Forms in Echelon 1938

BH 107

Tulip wood on elm base 1080 x 600 x 710 (42 1/2 x 23 5/8 x 28); weight 58.2 kg

Presented by the artist 1964

Abstract and Concrete Art, Guggenheim Jeune, London, April 1939 (24, as Two Forms (Tulip Wood))
Exhibition of Paintings, Sculpture and Drawings by Paul Nash and Barbara Hepworth, Temple Newsam, Leeds, April-June 1943 (96)
Sculpture and Drawings by Barbara Hepworth, Wakefield City Art Gallery, Feb.-March 1944, Bankfield Museum, Halifax, March-April (22)
Summer Exhibition, Penwith Society of Arts, St Ives, summer 1951 (80)
Barbara Hepworth: A Retrospective Exhibition of Carvings and Drawings from 1927-1954, Whitechapel Art Gallery, London, April-June 1954 (32)
Barbara Hepworth: Carvings and Drawings 1937-54, North American tour organised by Martha Jackson Gallery, New York, 1955-6, Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, April-May 1955, University of Nebraska Art Galleries, June-Aug., San Francisco Museum of Art, Sept.-Oct., Albright Art Gallery, Buffalo, Nov.-Dec., Art Gallery of Toronto, Jan.-Feb. 1956, Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, March, Baltimore Museum of Art, April-June 1956 (3, repr.)
Barbara Hepworth: Sculpture, Paintings, Drawings, Martha Jackson Gallery, New York, Dec. 1956 - Jan. 1957 (3)
Paintings by Francis Bacon, Paintings & Etchings by S.W. Hayter, Sculpture & Drawings by Barbara Hepworth, V Bienal do Museu de Arte Moderna São Paolo, Sept.-Dec. 1959 (2, dated 1939)
Barbara Hepworth, BC tour, Comisión National de Bellas Artes, Montevideo, Apr.-May 1960, Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes, Buenos Aires, May-June, Instituto de Arte Moderno, Santiago, Sept.-Oct., Museo de Bellas Artes, Viña del Mar (Chile), Oct., Museo de Bellas Artes, Caracas, Nov. 1960 (1)
British Art and the Modern Movement 1930-40, Welsh Committe of the Arts Council, National Museum of Wales, Cardiff, Oct.-Nov. 1962 (128, repr. p.33)
Barbara Hepworth, Kunstforeningen, Copenhagen, Sept.-Oct. 1964 (3), Moderna Museet, Stockholm, Nov.-Dec. (4)
Art in Britain 1930-40 Centred around Axis, Circle, Unit One, Marlborough Fine Art, London, March-April 1965 (45, repr. as Two Forms)
Barbara Hepworth, Tate Gallery, London, April-May 1968 (34, repr. p.14)
Barbara Hepworth, Plymouth City Art Gallery, June-Aug. 1970 (10, repr.)
British Sculpture in the Twentieth Century, Whitechapel Art Gallery, London, Sept. 1981-Jan. 1982 (part 1, 170)
Un Siécle de Sculpture Anglaise, Galerie national du Jeu de Paume, Paris, June-Sept. 1996 (no number, repr. in col. p.98)

'Art Out-of-Doors', Architectural Review, vol.85, no.509, April 1939, pp.201-2, repr. p.202, pl.1
J.P. Hodin, Barbara Hepworth, Neuchâtel and London 1961, p.165, no.107, repr.
Tate Gallery Report 1964-5, London 1966, p.40
'Recent Museum Acquisitions: Sculpture and Drawings by Barbara Hepworth (The Tate Gallery)', Burlington Magazine, vol.108, no.761, Aug. 1966, pp.425-6, repr. p.424, pl.57
George Heard Hamilton, Painting and Sculpture in Europe 1880-1940, Harmondsworth 1967, p.236, pl.141, 6th ed., 1993, pp.361-3, repr. p.362, pl.218
Charles Harrison, English Art and Modernism 1900-1939, London and Bloomington 1981, rev. ed. London and New Haven 1994, p.269, repr. p.270, fig.141
David Fraser Jenkins, Barbara Hepworth: A Guide to the Tate Gallery Collection at London and St Ives, Cornwall, London 1982, p.10, repr. p.26
Alan G. Wilkinson, 'The 1930s: "Constructive Forms and Poetic Structure"' in Penelope Curtis and Alan G. Wilkinson, Barbara Hepworth: A Retrospective, exh. cat., Tate Gallery Liverpool 1994, p.64
Alun R. Graves, 'Casts and Histories: Material Evidence and Hepworth's Sculptures', David Thistlewood (ed.), Barbara Hepworth Reconsidered, Liverpool 1996, p.179

Herbert Read, Barbara Hepworth: Carvings and Drawings, London 1952, pl.59 (as 1939)
Reyner Banham, 'Object Lesson', Architectural Review, vol.115, no.690, June 1954, p.404
A.M. Hammacher, Barbara Hepworth, London 1959, pl.5
A.M. Hammacher, Barbara Hepworth, London 1968, rev. ed. 1987, p.81, pl.56
A.M. Hammacher, The Evolution of Modern Sculpture: Tradition and Innovation, London 1969, p.249 (as 1939), pl.278 (col.)

In retrospect, Barbara Hepworth recalled the paradox of the difficult years 1938-9: 'Lacking money, space and time, I became obsessed by ideas for large works' (Barbara Hepworth: A Pictorial Autobiography, 1970, New ed. 1978, p.41). She claimed that she had already made three works over ten feet high which were subsequently destroyed; the largest of these was, in fact, the six feet high Monumental Stela, 1936 (BH 82, destroyed, repr. Read 1952, pl.43). Nevertheless, through its size, Two Forms in Echelon falls between such pre-war aspirations to monumentality and her preoccupation with a place for her work in the landscape. This move was intimated when the sculpture was first reproduced superimposed on a photograph of a garden (Architectural Review April 1939); other works were shown collaged on photographs of terraces around an International style house in order to suggest a context distinct from the gallery. The idea may have been stimulated by the positioning of Henry Moore's Recumbent Figure, 1938 (Tate N05387) on the terrace of the architect Serge Chermayeff's house ('House near Halland, Sussex', Architectural Review, vol.85, no.507, Feb.1939, pp.63-78). For her part, Hepworth was reported to believe 'that all good sculpture was, and still is, designed for the open air', and her comment on Two Forms in Echelon (culled from an interview) concentrated on the effect: 'The sculpture has an upward growth but the curves of the two monoliths make a closed composition which, in the open, with light all round, they [sic] create a quietness, a pause in the progress of the eye' (Architectural Review April 1939, p.200). This desire to see Two Forms in Echelon outside was reaffirmed fifteen years later when it was positioned next to the Neolithic stones of Men-an-tol for Dudley Shaw Ashton's 1954 film on the artist (Banham 1954).

What distinguishes Two Forms in Echelon from many of the contemporary works is the differentiation of organic forms which extended the variety found within the Single Form group of 1937-8 (see Tate Gallery T00697). Both of the elements are slim in section and come to prow-like edges. The outside faces are curved, while those turned inwards are noticeably flat, perhaps retaining the sawn plane of the original block. Although the element with the cylindrical hole is higher and generally more massive, the 'upright growth' of each rises to a high point at the right (when seen from the side) creating an echoing - rather than a reflected - pair. A related form appeared poised on a cone in Hepworth's contemporary five part Project (Monument to the Spanish Civil War), 1938-9 (BH 111, destroyed, repr. Read 1952, pl.55). The elements of Two Forms in Echelon appear to be responsive to each other, securing a sense of enclosure which went beyond the similar pairings in the stone Two Forms (Two Figures), 1935 (BH 69, destroyed, repr. Hodin. pl.69) and the white marble Two Forms, 1937 (BH 96, on loan to the University of East Anglia, repr. Hodin 1961 pl.96). Because of this relationship, they cannot strictly be said to be in 'echelon', as they are not staggered in the way used for Discs in Echelon, 1935 (Tate Gallery T03132); significantly, the work was first shown simply as Two Forms (Tulip Wood).

The carving admirably displays the richly coloured tulip wood. There are paler flashes in the edges to the rear, and the grain is especially rhythmical in the flat faces. The highly polished surfaces show many minor indentations sustained during handling. The slenderness of the blocks may have helped to minimise splitting. Nevertheless, splits have occurred: in the hole of the larger element (relating to the knot below) and in the top (relating to burring in the wood). A long split from the top of the smaller element was filled before the work left the artist's possession. In the artist's official photograph (e.g. Hodin 1961, pl.107), the two elements appear to be shown on a plinth, suggesting that they were free-standing and their relationship was adjustable. The present base may date from the early 1960s, when a similar base was made for Image II, 1960 (Tate Gallery T00958). It consists of three horizontal layers of wood, the middle one of which is set at right angles in an effort to prevent warping. Unfortunately, this precaution was counteracted by metal bands screwed underneath which restricted the wood's movement and resulted in buckling; the end strips have since been slotted to allow movement as the wood expands and contracts.

Two Forms in Echelon was one of two Hepworths included in Abstract and Concrete Art at Peggy Guggenheim's gallery in 1939; the catalogue of the exhibition was published in the London Bulletin (no.14, 1 May 1939, pp.2-4,21-22). The threat of war saw the closure of the gallery in June (to be replaced by unfulfilled plans for a Museum of Modern Art under the Directorship of Herbert Read) and the relocation of Hepworth and Nicholson to St Ives, where they stayed with Adrian Stokes (q.v.) for the latter part of the year. A sketch of Two Forms in Echelon features on a sheet of drawings of sculptures made around this time seemingly as a record of their distribution for safe keeping (copy in Tate Gallery cataloguing files). It was listed under Stokes, with the annotation '100' (?guineas), suggesting that it was in St Ives; it was certainly available for Hepworth's wartime exhibitions. As several of her other large scale sculptures were destroyed in the war, Two Forms in Echelon served as an important example of her scope and ambition. This was implicitly acknowledged by Hepworth herself, as she chose to feature it in the series of retrospectives preceding its donation to the Tate in 1964.

Matthew Gale
April 1997

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