Dame Barbara Hepworth

Squares with Two Circles


Not on display

Dame Barbara Hepworth 1903–1975
Object: 3061 × 1372 × 318 mm. Base dims: 415 × 1780 × 955mm
Purchased 1964

Catalogue entry

Dame Barbara Hepworth 1903-1975

T00702 Squares with Two Circles 1963

BH 347; cast 1/3

Bronze on original bronze base 3061 x 1372 x 318 (120 1/2 x 54 x 12 1/2)

Cast inscription on top of base 'Barbara Hepworth' and '1/3' back left, and cast foundry mark on front of base 'Morris | Singer | FOUNDERS | LONDON' t.r.

Purchased from the artist (Grant-in-Aid) 1964

Exhibited (ý = unidentified cast, ü = other cast):
54/64 Painting and Sculpture of a Decade, Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation, Tate Gallery, April-June 1964 (79, as Monolith (Square and Two Circles), the plaster repr.)
Beeldhouwwerken en Tekeningen van Barbara Hepworth, Rietveld Pavilion, Rijksmueum Kröller-Müller, Otterlo, May-July 1965 (40ü, repr.)
Barbara Hepworth, Tate Gallery, April-May 1968 (137)
Barbara Hepworth, Yorkshire Sculpture Park, Bretton Hall, July-Oct. 1980 (23)
A Century of Modern Sculpture: The Patsy and Raymond Nasher Collection, Dallas Museum of Art, April-May 1987, National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C., June 1987-Jan. 1988 (36ü, repr. pp.82 (col.), 160)

Tate Gallery Report 1964-5, 1966, p.41
'Recent Museum Acquisitions: Sculpture and Drawings by Barbara Hepworth (The Tate Gallery)', Burlington Magazine, vol.108, no.761, Aug. 1966, p.426, repr. p.424, pl.59
Alan Bowness (ed.), The Complete Sculpture of Barbara Hepworth 1960-69, 1971, pp.12-13, 36 no.347, pls.6 (col.), 92-4
W.J. Strachan, Open Air Sculpture in Britain: A Comprehensive Guide, 1984, p.200, no.462, repr.
Nan Rosenthal, 'Sculpture in the Constructivist Tradition' in Steven A. Nash (ed.), A Century of Modern Sculpture: The Patsy and Raymond Nasher Collection, exh. cat., Dallas Museum of Art 1987, pp.79-81, 161

'Barbara Hepworth's Gift of Sculpture to the Tate Gallery', Illustrated London News, vol.245, 5 Dec. 1964, p.907
R.W.D. Oxenaar, 'Barbara Hepworth: Mens, beeld en landschap', Museumjournal voor Moderne Kunst, vol.10, no.6, June 1965, p.147
John F. Mills, 'Barbara Hepworth at the Rietveld Pavilion, Kröller-Müller Museum', Connoisseur, vol.159, no.642, Aug. 1965, p.243
'Acquisitions of Works of Art by Museums and Galleries: Rijksmuseum Kröller-Müller, Otterlo', Burlington Magazine, vol.107, no.752, Nov. 1965, p.596
Alan Bowness, Barbara Hepworth: Drawings from a Sculptor's Landscape, 1966, p.4 (col.)
Historical Survey, Rijksmueum Kröller-Müller, Otterlo, 1969, pp.12, 51
A.M. Hammacher, The Evolution of Modern Sculpture: Tradition and Innovation, 1969, p.257, pl.286 (col.)
Barbara Hepworth: A Pictorial Autobiography, 1970, pp.102, 108
Sculptures of the Rijksmuseum Kröller-Müller, Otterlo, Netherlands, 1970, pl.47
The Bulletin, magazine of the Royal Insurance Company, no.138, Sept. 1970, p.2
David Fraser Jenkins, Barbara Hepworth: A Guide to the Tate Gallery Collection at London and St Ives, Cornwall, 1982, p.36

On long term loan to Yorkshire Sculpture Park, Bretton Hall, Nr. Wakefield, 1980

Soon after the completion of Squares with Two Circles, Barbara Hepworth told the Tate that she 'was interested in the proportion of the sculpture in relation to the human figure, and the apertures are placed in relation to human vision' (Tate Gallery Report 1964-5, 1966, p.41). The sculpture is over three metres high; the lower opening is centred at c.1340 mm (53 in.) and the upper at c.2360 mm (93 in.). On a number of occasions, it has been displayed on a further plinth, raising the lower hole to eye level.

Squares with Two Circles is one of Hepworth's largest monolithic bronzes, combining rectilinearity with lightness by the device of the short rectangular column. Variety is introduced in the slight modifications of the geometry: from the side it is apparent that the form tapers as it rises and that the faces are slightly convex. The corners of the quadrilaterals are not precise right-angles, so that 'despite the sculpture's geometric syntax, a sense of the natural and vital is preserved' (Rosenthal 1987, p.161). This is combined with the restrained handling of the surface which is burnished down to retain only shallow pitting. A hierarchy of zones was established on the related Maquette for Monolith, 1963 (BH 349, Gimpel Fils, repr. Bowness 1971, p.37). This was made more obvious through the surface and patination of Squares with Two Circles. The face is light green above and dark green below, while the back is brown and green in similar dark tones. While the front is made up of the simple disposition of two horizontal quadrilaterals, the inclusion of the column into the composition of the reverse allowed for the build up of vertical planes, one sliding into the other with an additional step at the left. The holes, which are conical in form and more polished than the faces, provide the continuity between the horizontal and the vertical formats. The integration with the landscape - one of Hepworth's abiding concerns - is made actual by these openings, through what she termed the viewer's 'sense of participating in the form' (Bowness 1971, p.12). This has encouraged Nan Rosenthal to write of the establishment in a outdoor setting of a 'balanced nature/culture dialogue' (Rosenthal 1987, p.81).

The simplicity of Squares with Two Circles recalls the purity of the works of the 1930s, a connection to which Hepworth drew attention in her discussion of the sculpture with Alan Bowness. She related it particularly to the six feet high carving Monumental Stela, 1936 (BH 82, destroyed, repr. Herbert Read, Barbara Hepworth: Carvings and Drawings, 1952, pl.43), destroyed after being 'damaged ... by shrapnel', noting: 'it's haunted me ever since, and when I was able to make Squares with Two Circles I kept thinking about it. The back view has the curve that was in the earlier work. I don't often express preferences about my own work, but I must admit it's a particular favourite of mine, perhaps because of the earlier connection' (Bowness 1971, p.12). Although united by a common abstract conception, the 1930s sculpture was more crisply geometrical in keeping with the contemporary aspirations towards aesthetic and social improvement voiced through Circle (1937), the Constructive publication to which Hepworth contributed. In their articulation of space through the accumulation of shallow planes these interrelated works were connected to Ben Nicholson's reliefs of both periods, but a connection has also been made between the monolith of Squares with Two Circles and Neolithic stones. In countering the suggestion that her circles were 'just plonked down', Hepworth indicated that their 'slanted' form would be apparent if 'you climbed through the circles of Squares with Two Circles' (ibid., p.13); in fact, the upper circle opens out towards the back, while the lower is funnelled in the opposite direction. When Alan Bowness linked this comment to the practice of climbing through the local ring-shaped Men-an-tol stone, the sculptor observed that the experience of such stones had ratified her ideas that 'you're making an image, a fetish, something which alters human behaviour or movement' (ibid.).

The work was made at a time and on a scale associated with Hepworth's series of commissions around 1960, including Meridian, 1958-60 (BH 250, Pepsi Cola Corporation, repr. J.P. Hodin, Barbara Hepworth, 1961, pl.250) and Winged Figure, 1962 (BH 315, John Lewis Partnership, repr. Bowness 1971, pl.60) in London, and Single Form, 1961-4 (BH 325, United Nations, New York, repr. Bowness 1971, pl.71) in New York. As well as establishing her sculpture in urban public places during a period of particular demand for such monuments, these successes allowed her to finance the enlargement of her own work. She contrasted the response to a site required by a commission with the freedom of her own choice, telling Warren Forma: 'I always imagine the sort of setting I would like to see them in, because I firmly believe that sculpture and forms generally grow in magnitude out in the open with space and distance and hills' (Warren Forma, 5 British Sculptors (Work and Talk), New York, 1964, p.15). Such imagined placement may be associated with Hepworth's interest in the mid 1960s in the establishment of a sculpture park, comparable to the Rijksmuseum Kröller-Müller at Otterlo (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.152). As well as a concern with the site, the interview with Forma expressed Hepworth's new engagement with large scale public commissions in the year following the unveiling of the Dag Hammerskjöld memorial in New York, and when further American commissions may have seemed a prospect. After the Tate and the Kröller-Müller acquired the first two casts of Squares with Two Circles in 1964 and 1964, the third was sold to the Dallas collectors Patsy and Raymond Nasher in 1968.

Although further public commissions did not immediately follow, the sculpture was the first of a series of large works made with essentially flat geometrical planes which culminated in Four-Square (Walk Through), 1966 (BH 433, estate of the artist, repr. Bowness 1971, pls.160-1) and Two Forms (Divided Circle), 1969 (Tate Gallery T03149). All were made by cutting the shapes from sheets of expanded aluminium reinforced by angled aluminium corner strips; the plaster was applied to this preparatory armature. Apart from a small amount of corrosion along a weld in the supporting column, the Tate's cast of Squares with Two Circles remained in fine condition for an outdoor work until 1998. On 5 January the sculpture was severely damaged in a storm and repair to major faults along the weld seams has been entrusted to the Morris Singer Foundry, where it had originally been cast (Tate Gallery Conservation Files).

Matthew Gale
March 1998

You might like