Dame Barbara Hepworth



Not on display

Dame Barbara Hepworth 1903–1975
Oil paint, ink and graphite on board
Support: 483 × 362 mm
frame: 637 × 519 × 60 mm
Presented by the artist 1964

Display caption

The relationship between this painting and the Périgord, a region of south-west France, is unclear. The image reflects the way Hepworth was influenced by both patterns of natural growth and the loose abstract painting of French Tachisme. While remaining non-representational, the painting may bring to mind the layered structure of a flower as it opens up. Her technique is unusual: black lines seem to have been made with a straw, or a similar tubular device, dipped in paint, while the gesso ground has been scratched with a five-toothed tool.

Gallery label, August 2004

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Catalogue entry

Dame Barbara Hepworth 1903-1975

T00701 Perigord 1958

Oil, ink and pencil on board

483 x 362 (19 x 14 1/4)

Inscribed on the back in black paint over an area of white 'Barbara Hepworth | oil 1958 | Perigord | 19 x 14' centre and in pencil '[...]epworth' (partially obscured by label) bottom

Presented by the artist 1964

Recent Works by Barbara Hepworth, Gimpel Fils, June 1958 (17)
Drawings by Barbara Hepworth, V Bienal do Museu de Arte Moderna São Paolo, Sept.-Dec. 1959 (Drawing 15)
Barbara Hepworth, BC tour of South America, 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 (Drawing 9)
Recent British Sculpture: Robert Adams, Kenneth Armitage, Reg Butler, Lynn Chadwick, Hubert Dalwood, Barbara Hepworth, Bernard Meadows, Henry Moore, Eduardo Paolozzi, BC tour of Canada, New Zealand, Australia, Japan and Hong Kong 1961-4, National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa, April-June 1961, Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, Aug.-Sept., Winnipeg Art Gallery, Sept.-Oct., Norman Mckenzie Art Gallery, Regina College, Nov., Art Gallery of Toronto, Jan.-Feb. 1962, Public Library and Art Museum, London, Ontario, Feb.-March, Vancouver Art Gallery, March-April, Auckland Institute and Museum, July, Dominion Museum, Wellington, Aug.-Sept., Otago Museum, Dunedin, Oct., Canterbury Museum, Christchurch, Nov.-Dec. 1962, West Australia Art Gallery, Perth, Jan.-Feb. 1963, National Gallery of Victoria, Melborne, July-Aug., Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, Sept.-Oct., Queensland Art Gallery, Brisbane, Nov.-Dec. 1963, Newcastle War Memorial Cultural Centre, Jan. 1964, Albert Hall, Canberra, Feb., Bridgestone Art Gallery, Tokyo and other Japanese venues, including Museum of Modern Art, Kyoto, July-Aug., City Hall Art Gallery, Hong Kong, Aug.-Sept. 1964 (33 [or 39]*, repr.)

Tate Gallery Report 1964-5, 1966, p.41

J.P. Hodin, Barbara Hepworth, 1961, pl.n
David Fraser Jenkins, Barbara Hepworth: A Guide to the Tate Gallery Collection at London and St Ives, Cornwall, 1982, p.44

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

'Perigord could be said [to have] belonged to the family of drawings connected to the big Meridian of State House in Holborn', the artist told the Tate Gallery shortly after donating the drawing (3 March 1965, Tate Gallery Catalogue Files). The sculpture Meridian was Hepworth's first major public commission since the Festival of Britain, the preparation for which went through several stages: drawing, maquettes and the medium sized Garden Sculpture (Model for Meridian) (Tate Gallery T03139). As the commission was secured in late 1958 and associated drawings - such as Wind Movement No.2 (repr. Alan Bowness, Barbara Hepworth: Drawings from a Sculptor's Landscape, 1966, pl.42) - are dated to 1957, the 'family of drawings' to which she referred appears to have been underway before the monumental sculpture was envisaged. This coincides with the view that 'My drawings in the main relate to general phases of sculpture in the exploratory sense' (ibid.).

The board on which the cream ground of Perigord was applied was orange; some of the colour is visible in the corners and in the scratches made with a five-toothed tool. Single scratches sketch out inconclusive circles in the centre and some blue seems to have been worked into them. Over this preparation are the more energetic lines in black ink. This was applied with a hollow instrument - like a reed or straw - which allowed the ink to puddle at the inception but quickly ran out to leave dragged parallel lines. Although broken, the lines give the impression of being continuous as they build outwards in parallel strokes. The rubbing of the surface (to the right) and the flash of lilac paint towards the top appear to be after-thoughts.

Similar preparations and tools characterise the bursts of activity in related drawings, such as the organic Figures (Summer) Yellow and White (repr. Bowness 1966, pl.41) and Group (Dance) May 1957 (Barbara Hepworth Estate, repr. Penelope Curtis and Alan G. Wilkinson, Barbara Hepworth: A Retrospective, exh. cat., Tate Gallery Liverpool 1994, p.138, no.111). These appear to carry the rhythmic qualities related to sculptures such as Forms in Movement (Pavan), 1956 (Tate Gallery T03136) through to the unravelling line of Meridian. The practice is notable for its contrast to the control of Hepworth's earlier abstractions, such as Design for Sculpture, or the highly wrought Hospital drawings, such as Fenestration of the Ear (Tate Gallery T02098). While this change may be related to the new freedoms of her sculptural techniques with plaster for bronze, it may also be linked to the example of Hepworth's contemporaries. Despite the collapse of their marriage, Hepworth and Ben Nicholson continued to be close, and it is possible that the title Perigord refers to his painting 1955 (Perigord), 1955 (private collection, repr. Norbert Lynton, Ben Nicholson, 1993, p.280, pl.266 in col.) rather than to the South West of France. The sculptor's unravelling line has similarities to the controlled pencil in the still-life. The energy of Hepworth's line may also be seen in relation to the 'action painting' of the Abstract Expressionists, which was first seen in Britain in Modern Art in the United States, organised by the Museum of Modern Art, New York and shown at the Tate Gallery in January 1956. Several of the artists associated with St Ives responded to the impetus from France and America; in particular, Bryan Wynter was notable for his experiments with gestural line. It is significant that, at the time of the Meridian commission, Hepworth confirmed her interest in this current, writing to Herbert Read about 'Tachisme':

I can say that I feel, personally, that of all the 'pulses' of creation this has moved me more profoundly than any other. the whole vitality of this stream of painting is incredibly close to research being done by physicists at the moment, & by medical research into the 'source of vitality' of healing of wounds etc. ... it seems to me very bound up with the aesthetic perceptions of such fundamental rhythms & impulses of growth & form.
(letter to Herbert Read, [?Dec. 1958], Sir Herbert Read Archive, University of Victoria, B.C.)

Matthew Gale
March 1998

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