Early Modernism - Unit One - 7 & 5 Society

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The artist

Mr and Mrs F.E. Halliday

Private Collection, U.K


London, Lefevre Gallery, New Sculpture and Drawings by Barbara Hepworth, February 1950, cat no.41
Venice, XXV Biennale, British Pavilion, An Exhibition of Works by John Constable, Matthew Smith and Barbara Hepworth, British Council, Summer 1950, cat no.119
Wakefield, City Art Gallery, Barbara Hepworth, Sculpture and Drawings, Festival of Britain, 19 May – 7 July 1951, cat no.90, touring to:
York, City Art Gallery, 14 July – 12 August 1951
Manchester, City Art Gallery, 24 September – 21 October 1951
London, Whitechapel Art Gallery, Barbara Hepworth,
Retrospective Exhibition 1927–1954, April – June 1954, cat no.129
St Ives, Parish Church, Exhibition on the Occasion of the Conferment of the Honorary Freedom of the Borough of St Ives on Bernard Leach and Barbara Hepworth, September – October 1968
Plymouth, City Art Gallery, Barbara Hepworth, 16 June – 16 August, 1970, cat no.69


By 1949 Barbara Hepworth and Ben Nicholson's marriage had broken down and in February 1951 they were divorced. Following this, Hepworth moved to Trewyn Studio in St Ives where she would live and work until her death in 1975. Around this time she met and befriended a local girl called Lisa who would go on to sit for several other important drawings: Lisa Holding a Teacup (coin), (Private Collection), Two Girls with Teacups, (Arts Council Collection) and Portrait of Lisa in Blue and Red (Trustees of the Barbara Hepworth Estate), all dated 1949. In the early 1940s Hepworth's drawings were 'precise, cool and totally abstract'[1], exploring crystalline structures and curving forms which transferred directly into her sculptures. In 1947 Hepworth was invited to watch an operation taking place in the Princess Elizabeth Orthopaedic Hospital in Exeter. She was only allowed to take in with her a pen and sterilised notepad, from which she made a series of fully-realised drawings. This new experience had a profound effect on Hepworth and prompted a renewed interest in drawing directly from life, which lasted for around two years. 'With the model before one, every known factor has to be understood, filtered and selected; and then, from these elements in the living object, one chooses those which seem to be structurally essential to the abstract equivalent, relevant to the composition and material in which one wishes to convey the idea.'[2] Hepworth's drawings made on board, were prepared with layers of scumbled oil paint, in muted colours, which were scraped or rubbed off in places as the drawings developed. Hepworth developed her use of pencil line over a painted ground while making her surgeon drawings. It is an unconventional technique also employed by her husband Ben, which allowed them to achieve a greater spatial depth, while still retaining the precise line of a conventional drawing. Hepworth's economic line is in turn strong and delicate, while soft shading draws our focus towards the delicately modeled face and hands. She does not aim for a three dimensional realization of the figure, rather she is concerned with capturing a sense of rhythm, so important to her sculpture. All of Hepworth's drawings of Lisa pay close attention to the sitter's wavy hair, which she seems to have relished drawing. Colour is used descriptively and to enhance the sitter's features - yellow oil is used generously, creating a halo around the sitter's head. The contemplative pose and clasped hands in this portrait can be found in earlier examples of Hepworth's sculpture such as Figure of a Woman, corsehill stone, 1929-30 (Tate Gallery, London). [1] Alan Bowness, Barbara Hepworth Drawings from a Sculptor's Landscape, Cory Adams and Mackay, London, 1966, p17 [2] Ibid, p20