Barbara Hepworth - 20th Century & Contemporary Art Day Sale, Morning Session New York Wednesday, November 16, 2022 | Phillips

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  • "In always remaining constant to my conviction about truth to material, I have found a greater freedom for myself."
    —Barbara Hepworth
    Executed in 1965 at the peak of Barbara Hepworth’s career, Three Forms (Winter Rocks), is a prime example of the artist’s unique experimentations with material and space. By this year, Hepworth was considered one of Britain’s most prominent artists. After winning the Grand Prix at the São Paulo Biennale in 1959, which successfully toured North America, South America and Switzerland, her recognition grew significantly, as did her artistic output and ambitions. In the last decade of her career, when the present work was created, Hepworth continually pushed the boundaries in composition, scale and medium.


    Barbara Hepworth in her carving yard, 1960. Artwork: Barbara Hepworth © Bowness


    New Materials


    Three Forms (Winter Rocks), is one of the first of approximately sixty sculptures carved in slate Hepworth made between the 1960s and 1970s. Like Irish and Swedish marbles, slate was one of the new materials the artist started experimenting with in the 1960s. The slate sculptures are characterized by their smoothness, richness in color and polished finish. The first sculpture Hepworth made from slate was Carving (Mylor), executed between 1962 and 1963. It was carved from the top of a billiard table, likely made of Welsh slate. After this, she was introduced to the more famous Delabole slate, found in a quarry in North Cornwall. A thinner version of Delabole slate had been used as a construction material for years, but Hepworth discovered that if they quarried deeper, one would find a thicker and more sophisticated slate, known as the “Heart slate.” The Heart slate gave her a higher quality material, more suitable for sculpting.i St. Ives architect and close friend of Hepworth’s, Henry Gilbert, had previously used this material for his constructions, and became her main connection to get Delabole slate for her sculptures. In an interview with Alan Bowness, Hepworth expressed: “... every time they come across what they consider a sculptor's piece, they telephone me. The slates from these deep beds are very beautiful.”ii We can presume that Three Forms (Winter Rocks) was made from this precious Delabole slate.


    Barbara Hepworth, Three Forms, 1935, Tate, London. Image: © Tate, London / Art Resource, NY, Artwork: Barbara Hepworth © Bowness


    Figures in Landscape


    The title of the present work, Three Forms (Winter Rocks), refers to one of the main themes in Barbara Hepworth’s work—forms in landscape. This work appears to have been inspired by the landscape of St. Ives, presumably completed during the winter months. The standing rocks in St. Ives were a major source of inspiration throughout Hepworth’s entire career. The work’s title also emphasizes the use of three separate elements. The importance of “three” in Hepworth’s practice began as early as the 1930s. She made her first three-part sculpture in 1935, after giving birth to triplets the previous year, and she continued making variations of three-part compositions throughout the years. While the three forms in the present work are differently sized and imperfect in shape, the space between them is proportional to each other, demonstrating the artist’s always harmonious arrangements of form. As Hepworth once said, “[I am] absorbed in the relationships in space, in size and texture and weight, as well as the tensions between forms.” The harmony among the three organic, curved forms present in Three Forms (Winter Rocks) exemplifies Hepworth’s mastery of an advanced abstract language in sculpture.



    Notes from a Peripatetic Collector 


    “When, after years of focused work, gifted young women and men begin medical school. They are often told by thoughtful deans and mentors that a wondrous big new world awaits them. But what I learned is: “not yet!” It became axiomatic that the initial two years of basic science would require grueling hours of concentrated effort. What I soon wished for was an expanded sense of freedom.  

    Fortunate at the time, to be studying at Columbia College of Physicians & Surgeons in New York City, I found my corner of freedom by visiting the museums and galleries close by, where creativity lived and thrived. I of course quickly realized how disciplined and determined these artists were. But for me, the reaction was often awe and a hope that one day I would be free and creative as well. With honesty, my outreach was to become a form of psychotherapy. So began what was to be a sixty-year love affair with the visual arts.”  


    i Alan Bowness, ed., The Complete Sculptures of Barbara Hepworth 1960-69, London, 1971, p. 8.

    ii Ibid.

    • Description

      The consignor has indicated that they intend to donate the proceeds to benefit the Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth College.

    • Provenance

      Marlborough-Gerson Gallery, Inc., New York
      Acquired from the above by the present owner in 1966

    • Exhibited

      New York, Marlborough-Gerson Gallery, Inc., Barbara Hepworth, April–May 1966, no. 22, n.p. (illustrated)

    • Literature

      Alan Bowness, ed., The Complete Sculptures of Barbara Hepworth 1960-69, London, 1971, no. 374, pl. 107, p. 39 (illustrated, n.p.)
      Sophie Bowness, ed., Barbara Hepworth: Writings and Conversations, London, 2015, p. 187

Property of an Important Private Collector being sold to benefit the Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth College


Three Forms (Winter Rocks)

slate on a lacquered wood base
sculpture 13 x 10 1/2 x 7 in. (33 x 26.7 x 17.8 cm)
overall 14 3/4 x 14 x 11 in. (37.5 x 35.6 x 27.9 cm)

Executed in 1965.

Full Cataloguing

$300,000 - 500,000 

Sold for $415,800

Contact Specialist

Annie Dolan
Specialist, Head of Day Sale, Morning Session
+1 212 940 1288

20th Century & Contemporary Art Day Sale, Morning Session

New York Auction 16 November 2022