Dame Barbara Hepworth

Vertical Form (St Ives)

1968, cast 1969

In Barbara Hepworth Museum and Sculpture Garden

Dame Barbara Hepworth 1903–1975
Object: 470 × 254 × 102 mm
Presented by the executors of the artist's estate 1980

Catalogue entry

Dame Barbara Hepworth 1903-1975

T03150 Vertical Form (St Ives) 1968, cast 1969

BH 495; cast 0/9

Bronze 470 x 257 x 100 (18 1/2 x 10 x 4) on a walnut base 40 x 297 x 188 (1 5/8 x 11 3/4 x 7 3/8) on a secondary parana pine base 60 x 273 x 165 (2 3/8 x 10 3/4 x 6 1/2)

Stamped on back '0/9' bottom

Presented by the executors of the artist's estate, in accordance with her wishes, 1980

Exhibited (ý = unidentified cast, ü = other cast):
Barbara Hepworth: Recent Work, Sculpture, Paintings, Prints, Marlborough Fine Art, Feb.-March 1970 (29ü, repr.)
Barbara Hepworth: Sculpture and Lithographs, AC tour 1970-71, Abbotsholme, Uttoxeter, Jan.-Feb. 1970, Ashmolean Museum, Oxford, Feb.-March, Castle Museum, Nottingham, March-April, Manor House Art Gallery and Museum, Ilkley, April-May, Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, Edinburgh, May, Belgrade Theatre, Coventry, June, Shrewsbury Art Gallery, July, Letchworth Museum and Art Gallery, Aug., Kettering Art Gallery, Aug.-Sept., National Museum of Wales, Cardiff, Sept.-Oct., Ede Gallery, Cambridge, Oct.-Nov., Towner Art Gallery, Eastbourne, Nov.-Dec, Southampton Art Gallery, Dec. 1970-Jan. 1971 (16ü)
Barbara Hepworth Exhibition, 1970, Hakone Open-Air Museum, Japan, June-Sept. 1970, (39ü, repr.)
Autumn Exhibition 1971, Penwith Gallery, St Ives, Sept.-Nov. 1971 (sculpture 4)
Winter Exhibition 1971, Penwith Gallery, St Ives, Dec. 1971-Feb. 1972 (sculpture 5)

Alan Bowness (ed.), The Complete Sculpture of Barbara Hepworth 1960-69, 1971, p.50 no.495, repr.
Tate Gallery Acquisitions 1980-2, 1984, p.123, repr.

David Fraser Jenkins, Barbara Hepworth: A Guide to the Tate Gallery Collection at London and St Ives, Cornwall, 1982, p.39

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

The solid bronze Vertical Form (St Ives), 1969 was cast by the Morris Singer foundry from Hepworth's Vertical Wood Form, 1968 (BH 464, Mr & Mrs I. Norwich, Johannesburg, repr. Bowness 1971, pl.178) and issued in an edition of nine. Its basic form is of a half ovoid, tapering towards the bottom, with its ends flattened off. The bronze is unpatinated and highly polished in a manner seen in numerous works of the period. The artist considered a high polish in haptic as well as visual terms: in 1960 she told her dealer that she refused to lacquer such works because they were 'made to be touched' and the lacquer, though invisible, could be felt (letter to Peter Gimpel, 19 May 1960, TGA 965). The front surface of Vertical Forms is covered with very fine vertical scratches resulting from past polishing with a slight abrasive; it has been waxed (Tate Gallery Conservation Files). The sculpture is secured to the upper base with two steel bolts.

The original Vertical Wood Form is of lignum vitae, a very hard wood especially favoured by the artist. It may be coupled with Horizontal Form (BH 462, C. Richards, Cornwall, repr. Bowness 1971, pl.177), which is the same size, though horizontal, and has a similar shape. Like the vertical piece, Horizontal Form was also carved from lignum and the pattern of the grain suggests that the two works may have been carved from opposing halves of a single block. This would be consistent with the artist's preference for an economy of means and materials. Vertical Wood Form and the bronze reflect the gradual simplification of some of Hepworth's sculpture during the 1960s. In particular, she abandoned the spiralling hole seen in such works as Pierced Form (Epidauros), 1960 (Tate Gallery T03141) for a simple cylindrical opening. This represents a significant shift in intention as the twisting internal space was vital to the play of light and shade that characterised sculptures such as Corinthos, 1954-5 (Tate Gallery T00531). The more geometric piercing reduces such effects but unites the spaces in front of and behind the sculpture. It may be thought to echo the first piercing of the block by Hepworth and John Skeaping, c.1930, which was seen at the time as giving the works 'air, intimacy and a sort of stereoscopic quality' (John Grierson, 'The New Generation in Sculpture', Apollo, vol.12, no.71, Nov. 1930, p.351).

The use of a placename as subtitle for Vertical Form (St Ives) was a device employed by Hepworth from the early 1950s and especially common in her later work. The relationship between the individual pieces and the places is not clear, though in the case of Curved Form (Trevalgan) (Tate Gallery T00353) the artist related the form of the sculpture to her experience of that specific landscape. She had lived and worked in St Ives since August 1939 and by 1969 her reputation and the town's were intimately linked. In 1968 the freedom of the Borough of St Ives was conferred on her and the potter Bernard Leach and she may have named the sculpture 'St Ives' to mark that honour. She recorded how 'deeply touched' she had been by the gesture, which she saw as 'two of St Ives' somewhat elderly children [being taken] into the fold' (Barbara Hepworth: A Pictorial Autobiography, 1970, New ed. 1978, p.119). The doyenne of the town's internationally famous community of artists, Hepworth had, for many years, been a major force in the Penwith Society of Arts in Cornwall and in the St Ives Trust, an architectural preservation group. Since the 1940s, an organic community and civic responsibility had been central to her theory of society and the artist's position within it. During the war, she told Herbert Read that artists should 'become a part of a human community instead of being a minority, decentralise and yet unify' (letter, 8 April 1942, Sir Herbert Read Archive, University of Victoria, B.C.). She would reiterate this belief nearly thirty years later and demonstrate how she believed she had achieved such social integration in St Ives. It is hard to be aware of natural forces and processes in the city, she wrote,

[but they ] become very potent if one begins really living and putting down roots, and I am so fortunate here to have a garden and space and buildings where I can make such a mess and be tolerated. And so one isn't an oddity, but just another chap ... St Ives has absolutely enraptured me, not merely for its beauty, but the naturalness of life ... The sense of community is, I think, a very important factor in an artist's life.
(A Pictorial Autobiography, p.55)

Chris Stephens
March 1998

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