We are grateful to Dr Sophie Bowness for the cataloguing apparatus of the present work, which will feature in her forthcoming revised catalogue raisonné of the Artist's sculpture.
By the 1960s Barbara Hepworth was at the height of her career. Recognised globally as one of Britain’s greatest living sculptors, she had achieved numerous high-profile public commissions, exhibitions and represented Britain twice at the Venice and São Paulo biennales, winning the Grand Prix at the latter in 1959. As she later recalled: ‘we may have lived in Lands End but we were in close contact with the whole world (Barbara Hepworth, quoted in A Pictorial Autobiography
, Moonraker Press, Bradford-Upon-Avon, 1970, p.76). As recognition grew so too did her artistic ambition, pushing forward to create larger scale sculptures. In particular, Hepworth was keen to explore the ways through which viewers could interact physically with her work, writing: ‘I wanted to involve people, make them reach to the surfaces and the size, finding out which spiral goes which way, realising the difference between the parts’ (Barbara Hepworth, quoted in Alan Wilkinson, ‘Cornwall and the Sculptures of Landscape: 1939-1975’, in Penelope Curtis and Alan Wilkinson, Barbara Hepworth: A Retrospective
, Tate Gallery Publications, London, 1994, p.108). From her adoption of bronze casting from the mid-1950s onwards, Hepworth pushed the boundaries further in scale and size, with an increasingly architectural approach becoming visible in these forms, as seen in the present work. Although Hepworth was keen in her lifetime to stress that she did not work from maquettes, the present sculpture Four-Square (Four Circles)
is one of three smaller-scale works in bronze and slate relating to her monumental Four-Square (Walk Through)
. This gigantic sculpture – cast in an edition of three and housed at the Barbara Hepworth Museum in St Ives, Churchill College, Cambridge and Norton Simon Museum, Pasadena – allowed the viewer, as the title suggests, to physically explore her sculptural space like never before.
Four-Square (Four Circles) touches upon many of Hepworth’s key fascinations, spanning back to the 1930s, most notably perhaps the piercing of the form, which plays a pivotal role for the present sculpture. As with so many of Hepworth’s post-war sculptures the piercing serves to act as a window or vista, and in the present work allows for a clear line of sight through the piece. This makes the work appear light and balanced. In photographer Jorge Lewinski’s iconic 1968 portrait of the artist, Hepworth is pictured through the hole of the larger version of the present work, her arm reaching though and physically interacting with the work in the manner she hoped her audience would. As Edward Mullins recalled in 1967, soon after the completion of Four-Square (Walk Through): ‘This piece emphasises her insistence that the whole body must be engaged in response to sculpture’. Mullins also recalls Hepwrth herself saying: 'this engagement helps to orientate us – give us an image of security and a sense of architecture … You can’t look at sculpture if you don’t move, experience it from all vantage-points, see how the light enters it and changes the emphasis' (Edwin Mullins, ‘Scale and Monumentality: Notes and Conversations on the Recent Work of Barbara Hepworth’, Sculpture International, No.4, 1967, p.20). Four-Square (Four Circles) must therefore be considered one of the artist’s most accomplished and original works, showcasing her brilliant and unrivaled understanding of form, but also her desire to continue to explore new boundaries and possibilities as she was to do over the following decade and up until her death in 1975.