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  • Exemplary of Barbara Hepworth’s singular visual idiom, Maquette, Three Forms in Echelon embodies the very themes that defined the artist’s approach: harmonic unity, resilience, and our responsibility to others. First conceived in 1961, Maquette was Hepworth’s original selection for her commission for the John Lewis Department Store. Though her Winged Figure was ultimately chosen to be displayed on Oxford Street in London, where it is still on view as one of the city’s most iconic public sculptures, Hepworth much preferred, and ardently defended the integrity of, Maquette. Indeed, she even wrote to O.B. Miller, the Chairman of the John Lewis Partnership, “I am convinced, from an abstract point of view, that the Three Forms in Echelon with radiating strings rising upwards is my interpretation of the John Lewis Partnership, its Members and the Public.”i

     

     

    After the John Lewis building was bombed during the war, the company sought artists to decorate the newly restored façade of the building. In May 1961, Miller invited Hepworth to submit a proposal for the public sculpture after admiring her large-scale commission Meridian, 1958–1960, now in the Donald M. Kendall Sculpture Gardens, in Purchase, New York. In a letter to Hepworth, Miller outlined that the public work should expand upon the “idea of common ownership and common interest in a partnership of thousands of workers,” in order to “increase the happiness of its own members while giving good service to the community.”ii Interrogating these themes of partnership and fraternity, Maquette explores the relationship between the three aligned forms that are delicately intersected by thin wires, brought together by the most fragile ties. Despite the bronze’s heft, the forms are heavily textured, maintaining a distinctly human and delicate touch.

     

    Hepworth very much believed in the profundity and spirit of Maquette’s interconnected forms, calling the work “an illusion of light and space, as well as thrusting forms and curves which would work when looking upwards at the building—when naturally the forms begin to blend one with the other.”iii Though her original proposal was unsuccessful, she was so fond of the sculpture that she cast an edition of bronzes four years later, three of which are held in permanent museum collections.

    "I have always felt your first idea [Maquette, Three Forms in Echelon] would have been a more satisfactory solution to the problem of placing a sculpture on a flat wall, but no doubt it was too bold to be acceptable at the time."
    —Alan Bowness to Barbara Hepworth 

    The Feeling of Tremendous Liberation

     

    Barbara Hepworth's Winged Figure sculpture outside the John Lewis Department Store on Oxford Street, London

    "This period [the 1960s] did start with a feeling of tremendous liberation."
    —Barbara Hepworth

    Though the final decade of Hepworth's oeuvre has often been overlooked, it constituted a period of great personal and professional success; indeed, during this time the artist was at her most confident and prolific, executing almost as much work in the 1960s as she had in the preceding 35 years. Appointed first as a C.B.E. in 1959 and later as a Dame Commander of the British Empire in 1965, this decade also marked a crucial departure for her in many regards, as the artist’s “range and scale of sculpture broadened considerably.”iv In the 1960s, Hepworth’s approach came full circle as she revisited earlier themes and “learnt from her experience in carving wood” to manipulate diverse media “in new ways.”v During the same year that she designed the proposal for Maquette, in 1961, the artist acquired a former film and dance hall known as the Palais de Danse and converted it into a studio where she would create prototypes for her most significant commissions, which would then be cast in bronze, such as Maquette. “Certain forms, I find, re-occur during one's lifetime and I have found some considerable pleasure in re-interpreting forms originally carved,” she elucidated, “and which in bronze, by greater attenuation, can give a new aspect to certain themes.”vi

     

    A Labor of Love

     

    With Maquette, Hepworth broke free of the rigid tenets of classical sculpture, as she sought to integrate and truly unite the abstracted grouping of forms with the two-dimensional surface that the piece was intended to occupy. While the piece is void of figurative forms, the sculptor’s fundamental interest in relationships—at individual, social, and environmental levels—was echoed in the thematic underpinnings that spanned her career.

    "[Maquette is] an illusion of light and space."
    —Barbara Hepworth

    Hepworth’s commitment to the environment in which viewers would encounter her work was central to the execution of Maquette. She labored over the proposal for the piece for six months, diligently considering the specification of the John Lewis Building and the ways in which the public would interact with the work from afar. “I do not think sculpture can come alive in architecture at all unless it is recognized as a value in its own right,” Hepworth asserted. “Sculpture is not primarily an embellishment. It gives the human dimension, it gives that added perception which only sculpture can give.”vii


    i Barbara Hepworth, quoted in “Maquette, Three Forms in Echelon,” Tate, online.
    ii Letter to Hepworth, May 24, 1961, John Lewis Partnership Archive.
    iii Tate Gallery Acquisitions 1980-2, 1984, p.119.
    iv Alan Bowness, “Alan Bowness: conversations with Barbara Hepworth,” The Complete Sculpture of Barbara Hepworth 1960–69, 1971, p. 7. 
    v Jeremy Lewison, “Barbara Hepworth Reconsidered,” The Burlington Magazine, Vol 157. No. 1352, November 2015.
    vi Barbara Hepworth, quoted in Michael Shepherd, Barbara Hepworth, London, 1963. 
    vii Barbara Hepworth, quoted in J.P. Hodin, “The Ethos of Sculpture,” August 28, 1959. 

    • Provenance

      Marlborough Fine Art, London
      Private Collection, Switzerland (acquired from the above in May 1965)
      Acquired from the above by the present owner in 1997

    • Exhibited

      St. Ives, Penwith Society of Arts, Summer Exhibition, August–October 1965 (another example exhibited)
      New York, Marlborough-Gerson Gallery Inc., Barbara Hepworth, April–May 1966, no. 4, n.p. (another example exhibited and illustrated)
      London, Gimpel Fils, Barbara Hepworth, May 25–June 20, 1966, no. 1, n.p. (another example exhibited)
      London, The Tate Gallery, Barbara Hepworth, April 3–May 19, 1968, no. 116, p. 59 (another example exhibited)
      The Hakone Open-Air Museum, Barbara Hepworth, June 1–September 15, 1970, no. 12, n.p. (another example exhibited)
      Galashiels, Scottish College of Textiles; Inverness Museum and Art Gallery; Dundee Museum and Art Gallery; Milngavie, Lillie Art Gallery; Hawick Museum and Art Gallery, Barbara Hepworth: A Selection of Small Bronzes and Prints, April 17–December 16, 1978, no. 13, n.p. (another example exhibited)
      New York, Marlborough Gallery Inc., Barbara Hepworth: Carvings and Bronzes, May 5–June 29, 1979, no. 21, p. 11 (another exampled exhibited and illustrated)
      Swansea, Glynn Vivian Art Gallery and Museum; Bangor Art Gallery; Wrexham Library Art Centre; Isle of Man, Manx Museum, Barbara Hepworth: A Sculptor’s Landscape 1934–1974, October 2, 1982–February 26, 1983, no. 13, n.p. (another example exhibited)
      Sault Ste. Marie, Art Gallery of Algoma; Thunder Bay Art Gallery; Chatham, Thames Art Gallery; St Catherines, Rodman Hall Arts Centre; Cobourg, Art Gallery of Northumberland, Barbara Hepworth: The Art Gallery of Ontario Collection, August 15, 1991–May 10, 1992, no. 11, p. 46 (another example exhibited and illustrated, p. 34)

    • Literature

      Tate Gallery Report 1967–1968, London, 1968, no. T959, p. 63
      Alan Bowness, ed., The Complete Sculpture of Barbara Hepworth 1960–69, London, 1971, no. 306, p. 32 (another example illustrated, p. 33)
      David Fraser Jenkins, Barbara Hepworth: A Guide to the Tate Gallery Collection at London and St Ives, Cornwall, London, 1982, pp. 18, 47 (another example exhibited and illustrated, p. 35)

101

Maquette, Three Forms in Echelon

incised with the artist's signature, number and date "Barbara Hepworth 3/9 1961" on the lower right of the base; stamped with the Morris Singer foundry mark on the lower left turnover edge
bronze
26 3/4 x 20 x 4 3/8 in. (67.9 x 50.8 x 11.1 cm)
Conceived in 1961 and cast in 1965, this work is number 3 from an edition of 9 plus 1 artist's proof, and it is included as BH 306 B in the catalogue raisonné of the artist's sculptures being revised by Dr. Sophie Bowness.

Other examples from this edition are held in the permanent collections of Tate, London (2/9), the Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto (4/9), and the University of Exeter, Fine Art Collection (7/9).

Full Cataloguing

Estimate
$200,000 - 300,000 

Sold for $201,600

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20th Century & Contemporary Art Day Sale, Morning Session

New York Auction 24 June 2021