Dame Barbara Hepworth, ‘Figure (Nanjizal)’ 1958
Dame Barbara Hepworth, Figure (Nanjizal) 1958 . Tate . © Bowness

Room 3 in Modern Conversations

Modern Bodies: Barbara Hepworth

March 1960

Roger Hilton, March 1960  1960

Hilton’s work oscillated between complete non-representation and degrees of figuration. In the end he came to believe that was ‘only a step towards a new sort of figuration

, that is, one which is more true’. Often apparently abstract shapes suggest parts of the body – usually female. But, as well as his forms, Hilton used the material of the work of art itself to evoke ideas of the body and its functions. He reversed the conventions of picture making by drawing into and over paint while the paint itself looks as if it has been smeared or laid on in blocks.

Gallery label, February 2010

© The estate of Roger Hilton

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John Milne, Resurgence  1976

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artworks in Modern Bodies: Barbara Hepworth

Untitled (Silueta Series, Mexico)

Ana Mendieta, Untitled (Silueta Series, Mexico)  1976

This is a colour photograph looking into an alcove set in the wall of a building. A human figure made of interwoven twigs is fixed in the centre of the alcove. It appears to hang against the stone and plaster wall at the back of the alcove, with its arms upraised and its feet disappearing into nothing. Delicate and stylised, the figure has a swollen belly and the suggestion of the curves of a breast and a buttock, as though it is female and twisted slightly towards its right. Mendieta fashioned the silhouette form, following the contours of her own body, from burned thorny twigs, before fixing it in the niche of a building located in the church and monastery complex of Cuilapán de Guerrero, near the city of Oaxaca in Mexico. This sixteenth-century basilica constructed by Dominican friars during the era of the Spanish colonisation of Mexico was the site of several untitled works from Mendieta’s Silueta series in 1973, 1974 and 1976, including an imprint of her body in red on a white sheet hung in the same alcove above an arrangement of dried yucca stalks (reproduced Ana Mendieta: Earth Body, Sculpture and Performance 1972–1985, p.161). Mendieta also photographed the twig figure balanced on a broken column inside one of the monastery buildings (reproduced Unseen Mendieta, p.90).

© The estate of Ana Mendieta, courtesy Galerie Lelong, New York

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Sketch for ‘Reclining Figure, No. 2’

Francis Bacon, Sketch for ‘Reclining Figure, No. 2’  c.1959–61

These two works on paper by Bacon are the only ones in the display in which the page has been filled. As the pose remains the same, they may have served as colour studies and even responded to Mark Rothko's contemporary work (seen in London in 1959). The male nude and horizontal bands (derived from a sofa against a wall) are common to a series of Bacon's oil paintings from 1959 and 1961. The sketches appear to be later, as an impression of writing from another sheet but visible on 'Reclining Figure, no.1' gives his address as '7 Reece Mews', the studio which he occupied in the autumn of 1961.

Gallery label, September 2004

© Estate of Francis Bacon. All Rights Reserved, DACS 2021

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Figure

Henry Moore OM, CH, Figure  1931

Figure is an early example of Moore’s development towards abstraction in the first half of the 1930s. In this sculpture a figure of a woman is interpreted fluidly, a rendering that is in part determined by the sensitivities of the wood’s grain. It was most likely created in Moore’s Hampstead studio. Its rounded contours, in common with others from this period, relate to the sculptor’s interest in the lines of the landscape, where natural forms are softened and simplified as a consequence of weathering.

Gallery label, September 2016

© The Henry Moore Foundation. All Rights Reserved

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The Timid Proud One

Asger Jorn, The Timid Proud One  1957

Jorn had been a prominent member of CoBrA, a group of northern European artists whose improvisatory approach to painting was intended as a way of liberating their work from repressive bourgeois conventions. Although this painting was made several years after the group disbanded, its child-like style reflects the same principles. The figure embodies some mysterious inner struggle, perhaps reflected in the title. Jorn was a great believer in these kind of opposed dualities. ‘Tension in a work of art is negative-positive: repulsive-attractive, ugly-beautiful. If one of these poles is removed, only boredom is left’, he said.

Gallery label, November 2005

© DACS 2021

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Figure (Nanjizal)

Dame Barbara Hepworth, Figure (Nanjizal)  1958

This sculpture is one of several related carvings made from the mid-1950s onwards. In these Hepworth explored her highly personal response to the natural environment, using abstract forms. Nanjizal is the name of a cove near St Ives, with striking arched cliff formations. However, the artist also described the sculpture as a representation of 'my sensations within myself'. Thus the work appears to suggest the qualities not only of a standing human figure, but also the contours of the cliffs and beach at Nanjizal.

Gallery label, September 2004

© Bowness

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Cocon du Vide

Chen Zhen, Cocon du Vide  2000

Chen Zhen lived and worked mainly between Shanghai, New York and Paris, and his work reflects this constant shifting between cultures, which the artist called ‘transexperience’. In his sculptures and installations he typically assembled obsolete everyday objects, particularly old furniture and candles, sometimes in combination with fragments of technology and consumer goods. This work belongs to a series of sculptures made between 1999 and 2000, sharing the title Cocon du Vide (‘empty cocoon’) and featuring chrysalis-like forms made from Chinese abacus and Buddhist rosary beads threaded onto metal frames.

Gallery label, June 2013

© The Estate of Chen Zhen, courtesy Galleria Continua, San Gimignano

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Midonz

Ronald Moody, Midonz  1937

We do not know for sure the identity of this monumental head. One writer suggested she is Moody’s ‘vision of woman, primordial and awakening’. Moody himself described her as ‘the goddess of transmutation’. Moody was interested in Gnosticism, a belief in the redemption of the spirit from physical matter through spiritual knowledge. It may be this sort of transmutation that he had in mind.

Midonz was shown in Paris and Baltimore in the 1930s, after which it was lost for almost fifty years.

Gallery label, August 2003

© The estate of Ronald Moody

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Louise Bourgeois, Tree with Woman  1998

Topiary: The Art of Improving Nature is a suite of nine copperplate etchings with dry point and aquatint presented in a salmon pink silk-covered box. The portfolio was produced in an edition of twenty-eight of which this is the twelfth. It was printed by Harlan and Weaver, New York and published by Julie Sylvester Cabot, Whitney Museum of American Art Editions, New York. The prints follow a progression and are individually numbered and titled with a simple description. III Tree with Woman depicts a woolly-textured tree, like that represented in I Tree (P78621) and II Tree with Split Trunk (P78622). The horizontal format of the first two images has here been rotated into vertical alignment, emphasising the height of the tree, now represented whole, perhaps an older incarnation of the younger tree developing in I and II. At the tree’s base a little naked woman spans its massive trunk with her arms. Her legs are astride, one over each of two large divergent roots. Prominent labia mirror the bifurcated trunk above. She appears empowered, happy, in the prime of her sexual life. The tree is further developed in IV Tree with Shoes (P78624) and returns in the final image of the portfolio, IX Tree with Crutch (P78629).

© The Easton Foundation

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Self Portrait as My Brother Richard Wearing

Gillian Wearing CBE, Self Portrait as My Brother Richard Wearing  2003

© Gillian Wearing, courtesy Maureen Paley/ Interim Art, London

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Untitled (Male Figure)

Keith Vaughan, Untitled (Male Figure)  c.1970

© The estate of Keith Vaughan

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Rebecca Horn, Performances II  1973

Horn designed these ‘body extensions’ for herself and her friends. They limit or expand how a person can move and interact with their environment. These performances were made specifically for the camera. They show how the sculptures change the wearers’ relationship to the surrounding space and to other people. Horn has commented: ‘Looking back at these first pieces you always see a kind of cocoon, which I used to protect myself. Like the fans where I can lock myself in, enclose myself, then open and integrate another person into an intimate ritual. This intimacy of feeling and communication was a central part in the performances.’

Gallery label, May 2019

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artworks in Modern Bodies: Barbara Hepworth

Head of a Woman

Pablo Picasso, Head of a Woman  1924

This small painting demonstrates Picasso’s ability to capture an image through very direct means: taut lines laid over four colours. The stylisation of the face makes reference to the flattened planes associated with Cubism, but the incised line also reflects the texture and layering that dominated his work of the 1920s. He was much admired by the Surrealists but, even though sharing their interest in the unconscious and the irrational, resisted any official connection.

Gallery label, November 2007

© Succession Picasso/DACS 2021

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Loss of Selves, Place and Transformation

Veronica Ryan, Loss of Selves, Place and Transformation  2000

This work is one of three drawings in Tate’s collection (see also Gravitas Profundis II 2000, Tate T07772 and Gravitas Profundis III 2000, Tate T07773) that Ryan made while she was artist in residence at Tate St Ives (1998-2000). During this period, Ryan worked in the former studio of Barbara Hepworth (1903-1975). Hepworth had moved to St Ives shortly before the outbreak of World War II, and lived and worked in the area for the remainder of her life. She was interested particularly in the qualities of form and space, and her carved sculptures were often pierced expressing a concern with internal and external forms. While in residence in the studio, Ryan made a series of works that responded to Hepworth’s practice while simultaneously addressing her own concerns. Ryan found the Cornish peninsula reminded her strongly of the island of Montserrat in the Caribbean where she was born and lived until emigrating with her family to the United Kingdom as a young child. These similarities prompted Ryan to revisit childhood memories in the work she made at St Ives.

© Veronica Ryan

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Fighting One’s Self

Virginia Chihota, Fighting One’s Self  2016

This is one of two screenprints in Tate’s collection by Virginia Chihota that share the same title and date; where this one is landscape format, the other (Tate P81969) is portrait format. Both prints are unique and therefore not editioned, and form part of an ongoing series of monoprints – five at the time of writing – with the collective title Fighting One’s Self (‘Kuzvirwisa’ in the artist’s native Shona language). The title and images communicate varying aesthetic approaches to the theme of mental and physical isolation. Though created in series, the works are considered individual and can be displayed as such. This particular print is dominated by luminous gold ink, suspended in the centre of which is a large sac-like form positioned along its horizontal axis. The ovoid shape contains a human figure whose small black face and torso recede in relation to the flexed arm and disproportionately elongated leg, both articulated in taupe. The warm pink tones surrounding the figure are accented by two small striated Y-shapes rendered in blood red, evoking a uterine environment, and a colour prevalent in much of Chihota’s earlier work. The portrait-format print has a cool palette of predominantly blue and purple, overlaid by thin washes of red. Large concentric ovals of blue, purple and pale red form egg-like layers, within which a figure shields its face from view. The composition of both prints bears strong allusions to fertility, the placement of the human figure within such a sac being intentionally womb-like.

© reserved

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Sandra Blow, Composition II  1960

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The Harbour

William Scott, The Harbour  1952

The Harbour 1952 is made of black and white oil paint on canvas. The composition is dominated by a slightly curving black band that reaches about four fifths of the way across the middle of the painting from left to right. A small square of black occupies the top left-hand corner. A thinly painted, narrow black line stretches out from that square across the full width of the canvas and there is another, with four vertical lines beneath it, in the lower part of the composition. Within these black elements white paint has been applied in a generous manner to give a luscious, richly textured surface. For the most part, the white and black paint do not touch and bare ground can be seen between the two elements.

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10pm Saturday

Lynette Yiadom-Boakye, 10pm Saturday  2012

© Lynette Yiadom-Boakye

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Art in this room

March 1960
Roger Hilton March 1960 1960

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John Milne Resurgence 1976
Untitled (Silueta Series, Mexico)
Ana Mendieta Untitled (Silueta Series, Mexico) 1976
Sketch for ‘Reclining Figure, No. 2’
Francis Bacon Sketch for ‘Reclining Figure, No. 2’ c.1959–61
Figure
Henry Moore OM, CH Figure 1931
The Timid Proud One
Asger Jorn The Timid Proud One 1957

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