Dame Barbara Hepworth

Spring, 1957 (Project for Sculpture)


Dame Barbara Hepworth 1903–1975
Oil paint and ink on board
Support: 610 × 456 mm
frame: 640 × 488 × 53 mm
Accepted by HM Government in lieu of inheritance tax 2010 and allocated to Tate 2012

Catalogue entry

Spring, 1957 (Project for Sculpture) 1957


Oil and ink on board

613 x 447 (24 1/8 x 18 3/4)

Inscribed on back of backing board in pencil over white ground 'TOP' with arrow, t., and 'Barbara Hepworth | Spring 1957 (project for Sculpture | oil 24" x 18" 1957' centre; in another hand 'Gimpel' t.r., and '220-0694 | 270-3679' t.l.

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

Penwith Society of Arts in Cornwall: A Selection of Paintings and Drawings, Sculpture and Pottery, St Ives, AC tour 1957-8, Laing Art Gallery, Newcastle, Nov.-Dec. 1957, Ferens Gallery, Hull, Dec. 1957 - Jan. 1958, Leicester Art Gallery, Jan.-Feb., Museum and Art Gallery, Mansfield, Feb.- March, Birmingham City Art Gallery, March -April, Brighton Art Gallery, April - May, Hereford Art Gallery, May - June, Museum and Art Gallery, Kettering, June - July, Bolton Art Gallery, July - Aug., Cooper Art Gallery, Barnsley, Aug., Turner House Museum, Penarth, Sept., Arts Council Gallery, Cambridge, Oct.-Nov. (16 as 'Spring 1957')
IVe Exposition Internationale de Sculpture Contemporaine, Mus?e Rodin, Paris, June 1971 (not in cat.)

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

A hollow implement - possibly a straw - was used to apply the interlacing lines of Spring, 1957 (Project for Sculpture). Barbara Hepworth used this individual technique for a considerable number of contemporary pictures, which combine drawing and painting and in which the speed of the gesture appears paramount; these include Perigord (Tate Gallery T00701). The flow of black ink facilitated the process which may be related to her interest in Tachisme, the gestural abstraction being explored in Paris in the 1950s.

Close inspection reveals the preparation of the board in anticipation of this burst of activity. In common with the majority of her drawings, a dry gesso-like ground was applied in long horizontal strokes affording a slightly textured surface. Further long scratches were made before the Indian red paint was worked in. The effect of a central glow was achieved by rubbing away the paint to reveal the white below, and then a number of hurried lines were made in pale blue. Though indistinct, these established the pattern of upward loops and nest of lines at the base. The black ink followed and elaborated this lead, adding the more agitated lines at the centre where the speed of application is indicated by the way in which the ink is pressed out to either side of the line. The semi-circular and puddled end point to the line at the middle right confirms the shape of the implement.

In a letter of 3 March 1965 (Tate Gallery Catalogue Files), Hepworth told the Tate that the related drawing Perigord was connected to her sculpture Meridian, 1958-60 (BH 250, Pepsi Cola Corporation, repr. J.P. Hodin, Barbara Hepworth, 1961, pl.250), for which Garden Sculpture (Model for Meridian) (Tate Gallery T03139) was an intermediary state. The loose line has some echo in the folded strands of the sculpture, but the drawings anticipated the commission, which came in late 1958. The subtitle of Spring, 1957 (Project for Sculpture) was one commonly used by the sculptor even when not linked to a specific three-dimensional work. The suggestion of natural phenomena as a sources of inspiration is found in the titles of this and other closely related drawings, notably Figures (Summer) Yellow and White, 1957 and Wind Movement No.2, 1957 (private collections, repr. Alan Bowness, Barbara Hepworth: Drawings from a Sculptor's Landscape, 1966, pls.41,42). As 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) shows, however, the spontaneity of gesture allowed by working with paint almost certainly preceded any subject matter, making these pictures amongst Hepworth's least premeditated works.

A label on the reverse indicates that the drawing was shown at the IVe Exposition Internationale de Sculpture Contemporaine, Mus?e Rodin in 1971. Although Hepworth was amongst the British contingent, only her boxwood Single Form (Antiphone), 1953 (BH 187, estate of the artist, repr. Hodin 1961, pl.187) is listed in the catalogue.

Matthew Gale
March 1998

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