Dame Barbara Hepworth

Stone Sculpture (Fugue II)


In Barbara Hepworth Museum and Sculpture Garden

Dame Barbara Hepworth 1903–1975
Object: 1350 × 525 × 415 mm
Accepted by HM Government in lieu of inheritance tax and allocated to Tate 2005, accessioned 2006

Catalogue entry

Stone Sculpture (Fugue II) 1956

BH 220

Blue limestone 1230 x 460 x 380 (48 3/8 x 18 1/8 x 15) on granite base 110 x 525 x 425 (4 5/16 x 20 11/16 x 16 1/4)

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

5e Biennale voor Beeldhouwkunst, Middelheim Park, Antwerp, May-Sept. 1959 (46)
Barbara Hepworth: An Exhibition of Sculpture from 1952-1962, Whitechapel Art Gallery, May-June 1962 (22, repr., as grey limestone)

J.P. Hodin, Barbara Hepworth, 1961, p.169, no.220, repr. (as grey limestone)

Hodin 1961, p.2 (with Hepworth)
Barbara Hepworth: A Pictorial Autobiography, 1970, New ed. 1978, p.75, pl.201
Peter Davies and Tony Knipe (eds.), A Sense of Space: Sculpture in Landscape, 1984, p.8

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

In the catalogue of her 1962 Whitechapel exhibition, Barbara Hepworth wrote:

the necessary equilibrium between the material I carve and the form I want to make will always dictate an abstract interpretation in my sculpture - for there are essential stone shapes and essential wood shapes which are impossible for me to disregard. All my feeling has to be translated into this basic framework, for sculpture is the creation of a real object which relates to our human body and spirit as well as our visual appreciation of form and colour content. Therefore I am convinced that a sculptor must search with passionate intensity for the underlying principle of the organization of mass and tension - the meaning of gesture and the structure of rhythm.
('Statement by the Artist', Barbara Hepworth, exh. cat., Whitechapel Art Gallery 1962 [p.15])
This served as a reiteration of the basic carving principles by which Hepworth had worked since the 1920s and had demonstrated in works in the exhibition like Stone Sculpture (Fugue II). The emergence from the block suggested by the rough hewn base (in fact, a separate piece of granite) was characteristic of the sculptor's search for the 'essential stone shapes'.

A photograph of the sculptor posed as if carving the block (Pictorial Autobiography, 1970, p.75, pl.201) shows it approaching the final rough state. The overall profile and the concavity in the face have been achieved, and the holes made but not yet given their full breadth; it is not yet mounted on its base. The visible working of the stone demonstrates Hepworth's practice of carving with a point chisel in parallel lines; on the lower part cuts have been made at right angles to achieve the face. The reductive process was very gradual, and this makes it likely that the smooth plane to the left (running almost the full height) is not a finished surface but the dressed face of the original block, to which the sculpture is closely worked. As the next stage, a claw chisel would be used to take the rest of the rough surface back to the deepest cut made with the point. In this process the crisp lines of the edges of the forms which describe the planar transitions and openings would be secured.

The blue limestone of Stone Sculpture (Fugue II) is riddled with small fossils which, because of the different densities, must have made carving difficult. They are also to be seen in the same stone used for Poised Form (Tate Gallery T03134) and a dressed block at present used as the pedestal for Shaft and Circle (Tate Gallery L00941). Although early photographs (e.g. Hodin 1961, pl.220) show the fine finish achieved on Stone Sculpture (Fugue II), weathering as a result of its position in the artist's garden has exaggerated cracks in the top, across the reverse and within the opening at the back. Exposure has made the stone susceptible to staining from water and lichen growth; this has also allowed the filler between the sculpture and the base to come loose and water to seep in.

Hepworth's initial experiments with bronze casting in 1956 overtook such carvings as Stone Sculpture (Fugue II) and may account for its limited appearance in exhibitions. It epitomised the gradual process which she maintained alongside the production of editions beginning with Curved Form (Trevalgan), 1956 (Tate Gallery T00353). The sculpture's rhythmic quality is alluded to in the musical title. This also draws attention to the mahogany Wood and Strings (Fugue), 1956 (BH 209, Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge, repr. Hodin 1961, pl.209), with which it shared the device of divergent oval openings.

Matthew Gale
March 1998

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