Dame Barbara Hepworth

Square Forms


In Barbara Hepworth Museum and Sculpture Garden

Dame Barbara Hepworth 1903–1975
Object: 343 × 190 × 89 mm
Presented by the executors of the artist's estate 1980

Catalogue entry

Dame Barbara Hepworth 1903-1975

T03144 Square Forms 1962

BH 313; edition no. 9/9

Bronze on integral bronze base 343 x 190 x 89 (13 1/2 x 7 1/2 x 3 1/2)

Stamped on back of base '9/9' b.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: Sculptures and Drawings, John Lewis Partnership, Oxford Street, April 1963 (14ý)
Barbara Hepworth: Sculpture and Drawings, Gimpel Hanover Galerie, Zürich, Nov. 1963-Jan. 1964 (11ý, repr.)
Barbara Hepworth: Sculpture and Drawings, Gimpel Fils, June 1964 (11ý, repr.)
5 British Sculptors (work and talk), IBM Gallery, New York, March-April 1965 (18ü)
Barbara Hepworth, Tate Gallery, April-May 1968 (123ü)
Barbara Hepworth 1903-75, Gimpel Fils, Oct.-Nov. 1975 (35ü)
Hepworth, Gimpel and Weitzenhoffer, New York, March-April 1977 (10ü)
Barbara Hepworth, Gimpel Fils, Oct.-Nov. 1972 (21ü)
Barbara Hepworth, 50 Sculptures from 1935 to 1970, Gimpel Fils, Oct.-Nov. 1975 (21ü)
Barbara Hepworth: A Retrospective, Tate Gallery Liverpool, Sept.-Dec. 1994 (66, repr. in col. p.146)

Alan Bowness (ed.), The Complete Sculpture of Barbara Hepworth 1960-69, 1971, p.32, no.313, repr. p.33
David Fraser Jenkins, Barbara Hepworth: A Guide to the Tate Gallery Collection at London and St Ives, Cornwall, 1982, p.17, repr. p.35
Tate Gallery Acquisitions 1980-2, 1984, pp.120-1, repr.

A.M. Hammacher, Barbara Hepworth, 1968, Rev. ed. 1987, p.161, pl.139

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

Square Forms was made of seven elements projecting from a rectangular column screwed to a square base and selectively patinated green. There are five overlapping squares which, like the base, each measure c.89mm (3 1/2 in.); the base is 23mm (7/8 in.) thick, the planes c.5mm (3/16 in.). The core of the cluster is held by a vertical rectangle (equivalent to a square and a half) held in the column in a mortise joint. Behind it, a small rectangle (half a square) lifts up a square (the third from the front); another square (the fourth), immediately behind, is let into a shallow joint cut away from the top back edge of the column. The other squares are stacked up and displaced upwards or to the side. They are simply riveted together face to face (Tate Gallery Conservation Files); rivets are discernible in the overlap between the highest square and that below. Apart from the column, all the main surfaces show the results of diagonal saw cuts in from corners. This is also seen on the base. Breon O'Casey has recalled that, as an assistant, he trimmed the squares off the bases of an edition of bronze sculptures; Hepworth recognised their potential and salvaged the off-cuts (interview with the author, 16 Oct. 1996). An edition of nine was issued; they were cut and riveted individually rather than being cast.

Hepworth's immediately contemporary works of 1960-2 were, like Figure for Landscape (Tate Gallery T03140), predominantly organic in appearance, but Square Forms saw the reintroduction of a more geometrical approach. She had used such forms in the 1930s, most notably with the Constructive carving Monumental Stela, 1936 (BH 82, destroyed, repr. Herbert Read, Barbara Hepworth: Carvings and Drawings, 1952, pl.43), in which shallow rectangular planes appeared to be similarly shifted in progressive dispositions. It is notable that the sculptor specifically remarked upon the ambition of such lost pre-war works, telling Alan Bowness in 1970 that more recently she had the 'space and time and money for materials' to realise them on a large scale (Bowness 1971, p.7). The use of this geometry on such a scale was also recalled when Hepworth reconceived Square Forms as Square Forms with Circles, 1963 (BH 326, private collection, repr. Bowness 1971, pl.74) at nearly eight times the size. This enlargement differs in some details (the vertical rectangle is off-set further to the left) and has the roughened surface typical of Hepworth's monumental bronzes but here also developed out of the process of manufacture. A circular depression was cut into the face of the uppermost square, and an incised circle appears on the reverse of this element - suggesting potential removal - and on the reverse of that at the top left. These circles became conical piercings in Squares with Two Circles, 1963 (Tate Gallery T00702). The artist also took up this simplicity in ensuing drawings, especially the linear Square and Circle, 1963 (private collection, repr. Alan Bowness, Barbara Hepworth: Drawings from a Sculptor's Landscape, 1966, pl.55).

As well as Hepworth's sculptures from the 1930s, this modified geometry and the effect of shallow overlapping planes relates to the reliefs of Ben Nicholson, both from that period and as resumed in the late 1950s. Especially notable is Nicholson's October 2 1934 (white relief - triplets), 1934 (private collection on loan to High Museum of Art, Atlanta, Georgia, repr. in col., Ben Nicholson, exh. cat., Tate Gallery 1993, p.144, no.55), where the top square is set to the right and punctured by a circle. His reliefs of the 1950s are more often constituted of quadrilateral and rhomboidal planes, such as those found in 1957, April (Lipari), 1957 (private collection, repr. in col. ibid., p.186, no.111). Significantly, these reliefs made a virtue of the dense texture and uneven absorbency of the materials to achieve a mottled surface which may be compared to that favoured by Hepworth on her bronzes.

Matthew Gale
March 1998

You might like