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).
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