Conveniently for me, we were overstaffed at Lilly Library last night during my shift. This meant there weren't even enough chairs at the front desk for me to sit in. So, when I disappeared for a bit, it wasn't an issue. I left the desk and browsed the NC labeled stacks for an artist to do this blog post on. I wanted to learn something new, so I intentionally avoided the names of artists I either knew or thought sounded familiar. I strolled through the stacks, pulling out books, flipping through them a bit, and placing them back on the shelves. This went on until I found a book with a drawing form that I've never given any thought to : modern sculpture. Of course I knew modern sculpture existed, but I had never see the drawn plans for such abstract forms. As I flipped through the book, I found it intriguing the way the drawing compositions were translated in the sculptures themselves ( which were included in photographs.) I then reread the spine of the book, The Drawings of Barbara Hepworth , took the book, as well as its neighboring book simply entitled Barbara Hepworth.
According to that first book, Hepworth was "the greatest female sculptor in the History of Western art." Quite the introduction. But, it is true that in the twentieth century she was incredibly influential in the creation of British Modernism. She attended both the Leeds School of Art and the Royal College of Art, and went on to be a prolific producer of art in varying styles and medium. Yet, before these art schools, there were certainly factors in her life that would resurface in her later works. For example, her father was a surveyor. Between her father's drawings and a familiarity with math and numbers from childhood, her later works in the 1930s could have been founded in these earlier influences.
It is this work of the 1930s that I saw when I first scanned the pages of the book.
Her earliest drawings in the 1930s include 9 small sheets of studies. There are no known earlier sculpture drawings, so these nine are probably her first exploration of this genre. The following image includes one of those nine sketches, along with a sculpture she would make in the same year (1932.)
These two works are undoubtedly related, the sketch being called Form with Hole and the sculpture : Pierced Form. The drawing is simply pencil on paper, but is significant as it is one of Hepworth's "earliest almost-abstract drawings."
This drawing over the next decade evolved into the drawing for sculpture. In a quote, she explains "If I didn’t have to cook, washup, nurse children ad infinitum, I should carve, carve, carve. The proof of this is in the drawings. They are not just a way of amusing myself nor are they experimental probings -- they are my sculptures born in the disguise of two dimensions." The two images above present the sculpture in both 2d and 3d. The drawing is entitled Oval Form No.2, and was done in pencil and gouache in 1942. A year later, Oval Sculpture, was completed, and is believed to be partly inspired by earlier drawings such as the one shown.
In this drawing, there is an obvious emphasis on structure and geometry. It seems that the colored triangles are suspended by strings and curves reminiscent of the golden section. She explains such elements in the following quote "I used colour and strings …. the colour in the concavities plunged me into the depth of water, caves, or shadows deeper than the carved concavities themselves. The strings were the tension I felt between myself and the sea, the wind or the hills [author's emphasis]."
By the end of this decade (1940s) she had moved on from focusing solely on sculpture and onto a different subject of study now know as The Hospital Drawings. It is this subject that the other book, Barbara Hepworth, focused on. The picture below was completed in 1948 using oil and pencil and is entitled The Child's Hand. When I first viewed the image, I perceived the work and technique of her sculpture drawings. The same bold curves can be seen in the sleeves of the surgeons, and triangles in their masks. My perceptions were confirmed in her own words : "I wanted to convey my feelings about the amazing structure of the inanimate hand and arm."
2 books found in Lilly Library:
The Drawings of Barbara Hepworth by Alan Wilkinson
Barbara Hepworth by Hepburn