Dame Barbara Hepworth

Garden Sculpture (Model for Meridian)


In Barbara Hepworth Museum and Sculpture Garden

Dame Barbara Hepworth 1903–1975
Object: 1615 × 930 × 540 mm
Presented by the executors of the artist's estate 1980

Catalogue entry

Dame Barbara Hepworth 1903-1975

T03139 Garden Sculpture (Model for Meridian) 1958

BH 246; cast 3/6

Solid bronze 1505 x 865 x 540 (59 1/4 x 34 x 21 1/4) on integral bronze base 98 x 450 x 374 (3 7/8 x 17 3/4 x 14 3/4)

Cast inscription on top face of base 'Barbara Hepworth 1958 3/6' and cast foundry mark on right hand face of base 'CAST BY | MORRIS SINGER Co. | LONDON S.W.8' t.l.

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

Exhibited (ý = unidentified cast, ü = other cast):
Barbara Hepworth, Galerie Charles Lienhard, Zürich, Oct. 1960 (8ü, repr.)
Barbara Hepworth, Gimpel Fils, May-June 1961 (1ü, repr.)
Contemporary British Sculpture, AC open-air tour, Cannon Hill Park, Birmingham, April-May 1961, Manor Gardens, Eastbourne, May-June, The Abbey, Cirencester, June-July, Castle Grounds, Nottingham, July-Aug., Inverleith House, Edinburgh, Aug.-Sept., Lister Park, Bradford, Sept. (12, repr., as Garden Sculpture (Meridian) on back cover)
Barbara Hepworth: An Exhibition of Sculpture from 1952-1962, Whitechapel Art Gallery, May-June 1962 (36ý, repr.)
British Art Today, San Francisco Museum of Art, Nov.-Dec. 1962, Dallas Museum of Contemporary Arts, Jan.-Feb. 1963, Santa Barbara Museum of Art, March-April (113ý, as Garden Sculpture (Meridian))
Barbara Hepworth, BC European tour, 1964-6, Kunstforeningen, Copenhagen, Sept.-Oct. 1964 (14, repr.), Moderna Museet, Stockholm, Nov.-Dec. 1964 (15, repr.), Ateneum, Helsinki, Jan.-Feb. 1965 (14, repr.), Utstilling I Kunstnernes Hus, Oslo, March (14, repr.), Rietveld Pavilion, Rijksmuseum Kröller-Müller, Otterlo, May-July (19, repr)
Barbara Hepworth, Tate Gallery, April-May 1968 (92)
Barbara Hepworth, Gimpel Fils, Oct.-Nov. 1972 (9ü)

J.P. Hodin, Barbara Hepworth, 1961, p.170 no.246 (as Meridian, Model for State House)
David Fraser Jenkins, Barbara Hepworth: A Guide to the Tate Gallery Collection at London and St Ives, Cornwall, 1982, pp.17, 18, repr. p.31
Tate Gallery Acquisitions 1980-2, p.116, repr.

John F. Mills, 'Barbara Hepworth at the Rietveld Pavilion, Kröller-Müller Museum', Connoisseur, vol.159, no.642, Aug. 1965, p.243
Edwin Mullins, A Love Affair with Nature: A Personal View of British Art, 1985, p.68

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

Winning the Grand Prix of the Sao Paolo Bienal in late 1959 came as an official acknowledgement of Barbara Hepworth's international importance. It coincided with a period of enormous productivity in her studio, in which carvings were emerging side by side with plasters for casting in bronze. A series of large and important commissions for public sculptures further heightened this activity. These culminated in Winged Figure, 1962 (BH 315, John Lewis Partnership, repr. Alan Bowness (ed.), The Complete Sculpture of Barbara Hepworth 1960-69, 1971, pl.60) in London and Single Form, 1961-4 (BH 325, United Nations, New York, repr. Alan Bowness (ed.), The Complete Sculpture of Barbara Hepworth 1960-69, 1971, pl.71) in New York, but began with Meridian, 1958-60 (BH 250, Pepsi Cola Corporation, repr. Hodin 1961, pl.250) installed at State House in High Holborn, London. Garden Sculpture (Model for Meridian) is the result of one of the intermediary stages towards this final sculpture; it is bound up with the process but also an independent aspect of it.

The commission came about during late 1958 through the British Council's Lilian Somerville, who also organised the submission to the Sao Paolo competition. She expressed relief about the commission: 'for once these architects do not want symbolism or a subject or a theme but an abstract sculpture' (10 Oct. 1958, BC Archive GB/652/25, quoted in Penelope Curtis, 'A Chronology of Public Commissions' in Penelope Curtis and Alan G. Wilkinson, Barbara Hepworth: A Retrospective, exh. cat., Tate Gallery Liverpool 1994, p.155). Indeed Harold Mortimer, the project architect with Trehearne & Norman Preston & Partners, had set aside a position for a contemporary sculpture beside the main entrance to the office development (Tate Gallery Acquisitions 1980-2, p.116). He was furnished with a list of potential sculptors (including Lynn Chadwick) whose studios he visited before offering Hepworth the commission (interview with David Fraser Jenkins, 18 Aug. 1981, Tate Gallery Catalogue Files). The sculptor studied the plans and visited the site, where one storey was already built (Alan Bowness (ed.), The Complete Sculpture of Barbara Hepworth 1960-69, 1971, p.10). She made 'lots of drawings' in the studio in which she proposed to set flowing line in contrast to the 'hardness of the architecture' (Mortimer interview, 18 Aug. 1981). In a contemporary interview, Hepworth spoke of the 'immediate formal impact' on seeing the site: 'With this commission I felt no hesitation whatsoever. By next morning I saw the sculpture in my mind quite clearly. I made my first maquette, and from this, began the armature for the working model' (British Council transcript, quoted in Curtis and Wilkinson, p.155). Later she reiterated: 'mercifully, I did get an immediate idea. I thought the building needed some kind of growing form, and I went straight ahead' (Alan Bowness (ed.), The Complete Sculpture of Barbara Hepworth 1960-69, 1971, p.10). She apparently explained to Mortimer her choice of title, which refers either to an imaginary arc of longitude (quintessentially the Greenwich Meridian) or to the highest point in the arc of the sun; unfortunately he was unable to remember its significance in 1981 (Mortimer interview, 18 Aug. 1981). Ben Nicholson had entitled one of his paintings 1953, August 11 (meridian), 1953 (private collection, col. repr. Norbert Lynton, Ben Nicholson, 1993, p.268, pl.254).

Hepworth's assistant, Brian Wall has recalled that she made the initial idea in pipe cleaners dipped in plaster. From this linear but three-dimensional beginning, Wall made the 43 mm (17 in.) Maquette for State House (Meridian) (BH 245, private collection, repr. Hodin 1961, pl.245) in plaster; it and Maquette (Variation on a Theme) (BH 247, Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto, repr. ibid., pl.247) were subsequently cast in bronze editions of nine. The Tate's Garden Sculpture (Model for Meridian) closely followed Maquette for State House (Meridian), but was one third the height of the final work. Following Hepworth's practice, it was made with an armature of expanded aluminium to which plaster was applied. This was more energetically worked than contemporary pieces, such as Cantate Domino (Tate Gallery T00956), with the surface showing the heavy encrustation of the plaster reminiscent of the work of Giacometti. Following the unfolding line of the maquette, the planes are set side-on and unravel in an elongated spiral to establish a triangular outline. They curve and turn in space and coil outwards at the centre. The handling of the planes and of the surface relate to the organic inspiration of the work, and may be associated with the energetic linearity of related drawings such as Perigord (Tate Gallery T00701). A photograph in the artist's album (TGA 7247.28) shows the plaster positioned against a curved board with a numbered grid. This was the means for enlarging to the monumental work, and anticipated the form of the curved back wall at State House, which the artist specified should be of Cornish granite (Tate Gallery Acquisitions 1980-2, p.116). A further photograph (Hodin 1962, pl.250) shows both the plasters for Garden Sculpture (Model for Meridian) and for Meridian; the size of the final work required a larger studio, and Hepworth was lucky to find the former Lanham's Sale Rooms near her Trewyn Studio recently vacated by the Penwith Society.

The full-size plaster was complete by February 1959 (Hodin 1961, p.22) and cast as a unique bronze by Susse Frères in Paris. In early November 1959, Hepworth herself went to Paris 'for a party & the finish of Meridian' (letter to Herbert Read, 5 Nov. [1959], Sir Herbert Read Archive, University of Victoria, B.C.). She was there for about two weeks, later writing to Herbert Read: 'Paris was a complete exhilaration for me after 21 years ... I had a good time with Charles Lienhard, Joray [publisher of Hodin 1961], Seuphor, Arp & Soulages - & I worked v. hard at the foundry. The large bronze is finished' (1 Dec. 1959, ibid.). In January 1960, Mortimer had the guarding wall heightened on Hepworth's suggestion 'to make Meridian look perfect' (letter to Gimpels, 20 Jan. 1960, quoted in Curtis and Wilkinson, p.155). The sculpture was unveiled in March 1960 by Sir Philip Hendy, Director of the National Gallery, at a ceremony under the auspices of Sir Herbert Read.

Already in 1958, Hepworth had qualified the 'fantastic experience' of the Holborn job by remarking on its small financial return and the fact that 'it is going so much slower than I anticipated' (letter to Ben Nicholson, 25 Dec. 1958, TGA 8717.1.1.361). As recompense, each stage of the process was cast. During 1959 casts of Maquette for State House (Meridian) were already selling (Peter Gimpel to Hepworth, 18 Aug. 1959, TGA 965). Her Swiss dealer Charles Lienhard suggested 'casting the five foot model of 'Meridian' as suitable for a garden' (Hepworth to Charles Gimpel, 17 Nov. 1959, TGA 965). The edition of Garden Sculpture (Model for Meridian) began to be cast at Morris Singer in March 1960 (Kay Gimpel to Hepworth, 29 March 1960, TGA 965) and first shown in Zurich later that year. In advising her London dealers 'it is pretty hefty', Hepworth also remarked with pride: 'It is not the sort of sculpture to go in a corner because it is so exciting all the way round & seeing through it' (letter to Kay Gimpel, 16 May 1960, TGA 965). This emphasised a fundamental quality which distinguished it from the larger work backed by its wall. One cast (5/6) went to New College, Oxford.

The artist's cast of Garden Sculpture (Model for Meridian) which came to the Tate has, appropriately, been sited in her garden. It has a pale green patination, slightly worn at the edges, and has also suffered from exposure to handling, accumulation of leaves and rain, and bird lime. Its vicissitudes started early. In 1961, on receiving it Hepworth remarked that 'there seems to have been considerable warping on one of the inner limbs and there are two very large lumps of bronze which simply don't exist on the cast ... The biggest fault is on the left hand inner limb which is very thin' (letter to Morris Singer Founders, 20 Feb. 1961, TGA 965). Despite this, the cast was needed for an Arts Council tour; a replacement was cast six months later (Eric Gibbard to Hepworth, 31 July 1961, TGA 965). As a protective coating, this cast was lacquered in 1974, but this was found to acquire a white bloom, possibly as a result of the breakdown of the polymer coat. The lacquer proved stubborn when removal was attempted in 1993, only 70% was removed and the surface was protected with a wax coating (Tate Gallery Conservation Files).

Despite their formal relationship Meridian and Garden Sculpture (Model for Meridian) represent different positions in Hepworth's thinking about sculpture. Large scale modernist sculpture was in demand during the construction boom of the 1950s and 1960s, amongst which the works of Henry Moore were very much in evidence. Hepworth's use of bronze from 1956 onwards was predicated upon meeting the demand for her work and the possibility of securing public commissions. She also maintained her forthright opinions of the social contribution of sculpture, stating in relation to Meridian that 'the architect must create a valid space for sculpture so that it becomes organically part of our spiritual perception as well as our three dimensional life. To do less is to destroy sculpture and admit to an impoverished architecture' (interview 1958, British Council transcript, quoted in Curtis and Wilkinson, p.155). Interestingly, this assertion echoes debates around the relationship between the two arts in the 1930s with which Hepworth had been involved through her large-scale works, such as Forms in Echelon (Tate Gallery T00698). Hepworth presumably felt that the guarding wall behind Meridian provided just such a 'valid space' within the otherwise rectilinear architecture. The context for Garden Sculpture (Model for Meridian) was evidently on a more domestic and human scale than the monumental work. It coincided with wider concerns in Hepworth's work, found especially in the freedom of drawings already being made in 1957-8, such as Perigord (Tate Gallery T00701). It also carried her abiding concern with the relationship between sculpture and the natural world. While Meridian offered Hepworth the opportunity to make a sculpture on a scale unprecedented but long desired (Alan Bowness (ed.), The Complete Sculpture of Barbara Hepworth 1960-69, 1971, p.7), Garden Sculpture (Model for Meridian) retained the linear form within the scope of gesture, and located the sculpture in the landscape.

Matthew Gale
March 1998

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    Poem of the Month: Penelope Shuttle

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