Lot 386
  • 386

BARBARA HEPWORTH | Figure (Imprint)

150,000 - 250,000 USD
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  • Barbara Hepworth
  • Figure (Imprint) 
  • Numbered I
  • Bronze on wood base
  • Height (including base): 13 1/2 in.
  • 34.3 cm
  • Conceived in 1956 and cast in an edition of 6.


Galerie Chalette, New York 
Joseph H. Hirshhorn, New York (acquired from the above on October 13, 1956)
Hirshhorn Museum & Sculpture Garden, Washington, D.C. (a gift from the above and sold: Sotheby's, New York, November 12, 1988, lot 454)
Private Collection, New York (acquired at the above sale) 
Acquired from the above


New York, Galerie Chalette, Eleven British Sculptors, 1956, no. 20, illustration of another cast p. 11
Washington, D.C., Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Barbara Hepworth: The Hirshhorn Museum Collection, 1981, n.n.


Josef Paul Hodin & Alan Bowness, Barbara Hepworth, London, 1961, no. 215, illustration of another cast p. 169


This work is in excellent condition. The work features a variegated, burnished gold patina. The surface is richly textured as consistent with the artist's intent.
In response to your inquiry, we are pleased to provide you with a general report of the condition of the property described above. Since we are not professional conservators or restorers, we urge you to consult with a restorer or conservator of your choice who will be better able to provide a detailed, professional report. Prospective buyers should inspect each lot to satisfy themselves as to condition and must understand that any statement made by Sotheby's is merely a subjective qualified opinion.

Catalogue Note

After decades of dedication to direct carving and truth to a material as “part of a way of life," Hepworth embraced the use of bronze in the 1950s (Abraham Marie Hammacher, The Sculpture of Barbara Hepworth, London, 1969, p. 127). “All her life Barbara Hepworth had found in herself a great distaste for modelling and she has never been able to find a way to work in bronze” opined Josef Paul Hodin and Alan Bowness (op. cit., p. 21). “The sensuous and organic qualities of marble, of stone and wood in general fascinated her to such a degree that she never expected to find, as she did in 1956, a way of working in metal which would give her the same feeling which she wanted to covey in her sculpture, the feeling of innate tactile experiences. But by cutting sheets of metal direct and working on them with files and abrasives so that the surfaces became personal, she was led on to a way of working directly in plaster which allowed her not only the fresh texture of paint and colour but also the rubbed and carved forms in contrast, which were connected in her mind with the process of fire and molten metal as well as the hardening process of its cooling" (ibid., p. 21). In this way, Hepworth embraced a new medium without losing the visual presence of the artist’s hand in her work. While her use of bronze represented a new direction in 1956, Hepworth’s dexterity with the piercing of her forms had been evident as early as 1932. The introduction of negative space in her sculptural vocabulary enriched the possibilities of abstract sculpture by abolishing the concept of a closed, and thus entire, form, linking the individual sculpture with the environment within which it was placed. The pierced ovoid form, as exemplified by Figure (Imprint), balances old and new concerns and reflects the freshness and vitality which Hepworth maintained throughout her career. Hepworth spoke frankly about her feelings on this practice: "I have always been interested in oval or ovoid shapes…the weight, poise, and curvature of the ovoid as a basic form. The carving and such piercing of such a form seems to open up an infinite variety of continuous curves in the third dimension" (quoted in "Approach to Sculpture," in The Studio, vol. 132, no. 643, October 1946).

Figure (Imprint) was originally acquired by Joseph Hirshhorn, the renowned art collector and financier. Hirshhorn would gift the work just ten years later to the fledgling Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden in Washington, D.C. Established as a bastion of Contemporary Art to counterbalance the more traditional collection of the National Gallery, the museum opened to widespread acclaim in 1974 (see fig. 1).

This work will be included in the revised catalogue raisonné of Hepworth's sculpture being prepared by Dr. Sophie Bowness under the catalogue no. BH 215.