Lot # 053
Spring 2017 - 1st Session Live auction

Barbara Hepworth
1903 - 1975 British

Figure (Chun)
bronze sculpture
editioned 6/8
17 1/2 x 8 1/2 x 6 in  44.5 x 21.6 x 15.2cm

Private Collection, Ontario

Barbara Hepworth, The Hepworth Estate, http://barbarahepworth.org.uk, accessed February 6, 2017

National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa, Recent British Sculpture (an exhibition organized by the British Council), 1961, touring to New Zealand and Australia, 1961 - 1964, cast #5
Art Gallery of Toronto, Exhibition of Work by Barbara Hepworth, March 1964, cast #3, catalogue #11

Figure (Chun) is a quintessential Barbara Hepworth sculpture: intimate in scale yet formidable in its presence. Whereas Henry Moore is by contrast best known for his large public sculptures, Hepworth is at her best when the work embodies her dedication to creating close-up encounters between the object and its viewer. As she put it in an interview in 1959:
Sculpture communicates an immediate sense of life—you can feel the pulse of it. It is perceived, above all, by the sense of touch which is our earliest sensation; and touch gives us a sense of living contact and security…That has nothing to do with the question of perfection, or harmony, or purity, or escapism. It lies far deeper; it is the primitive instinct which allows man to live fully with all his perceptions active and alert, and in the calm acceptance of the balance of life and death. In its insistence on elementary values, sculpture is perhaps more important today than before because life’s continuity is threatened and this has given us a sense of unbalance.
The perfection of Figure (Chun)’s surface might be taken as an attempt to embody the timelessness of form, but Hepworth has warned us against such an interpretation. The sensuous finish here is indeed tactile and the work’s size approachable. The sculpture suggests Hepworth’s “elementary values” in this way. Crucial too, however, is that it forges a temporal connection between us in the present and the ancient traditions of carving and monument making that so fascinated and inspired Hepworth. Based in London for the early part of her career and very much part of the European avant-garde, from 1939 on Hepworth lived in Cornwall, in and around St. Ives in the southwest of England. She was inspired by the many ancient monoliths in this region—their form, their longevity, and perhaps especially by the possibility of shaping a connection to their makers in her own abstract sculpture.
Hepworth moved from the fast-paced immediacy of the mid-twentieth-century avant-garde in London to an exploration of extended time in Cornwall. The reference to “Chun” in her title takes us to a prehistoric context, specifically to the Chûn Quoit near Penwith, a mushroom-shaped megalithic structure made of placed stones that fashioned a sheltered chamber. (“Quoit” is the Cornish name for such forms; this example is thought to date from circa 3000 to 4000 BCE.) Hepworth made a bronze sculpture entitled Single Form (Chûn Quoit) in 1961. We can imagine that she also found inspiration in the standing forms found in the ruins of Chûn Castle near Penzance. Figure (Chun) translates the enduring presence of such stone forms into the modern language of abstraction and the more recently developed medium of bronze. "What is the meaning of sculpture?” Hepworth has asked. “Today when we are all conscious of the expanding universe, the forms experienced by the sculptor should express not only this consciousness but should, I feel, emphasize also the possibilities of new developments of the human spirit, so that it can affirm and continue life in its highest form.” Figure (Chun) is both continuous with this past and modern.
We thank Mark Cheetham, Professor of Art History at the University of Toronto and author of Postmodernism: Trends in Canadian Art, 1970 – 1990, for contributing the above essay.
We thank Dr. Sophie Bowness for providing information in preparing this catalogue entry. Bowness is preparing the revised catalogue raisonné of Hepworth's sculpture, in which this work is included as BH 279.

Estimate: $120,000 ~ $150,000 CAD  
Sold for: $289,250 CAD (including Buyer's Premium)

All prices are in Canadian Dollars.

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