Barbara Hepworth, who was born in England and studied alongside Henry Moore at Leeds School of Art, became a noted leader in the development of modernism in sculpture. Hepworth, along with Moore, was known for Direct Carving, which involves working in a material rather than first preparing models and maquettes and having craftsmen construct the works from plans.
Early in her career, she was associated with a number of artists in England including painter Ben Nicholson, with whom she lived and collaborated. Together, they traveled in Europe where they met Georges Braques and Piet Mondian and visited the studios of Pablo Picasso, Constantin Brancusi, and Jean Arp and his wife Sophie Taueber-Arp, developing collegiality and international affiliations.
Hepworth’s approach to modern sculpture embraced abstraction but remained rooted in nature. In Two Forms with White (Greek), for example, the lightly curving elements could refer to two standing figures or to the rock formations found in megalithic monuments such as Stonehenge. Their elegant presentation reflects a personal language of purified shapes, rhythmically balanced curves and circles, and smoothly refined surfaces. The tunneled holes became a defining stylistic element in her work, admitting light and space into solid mass, exposing the interiors of the forms, and visually and spatially connecting the front and back.
Hepworth spoke about the vitalism of life forces as an ingredient in her art. In 1961, she explained that “The forms which have had special meaning for me since childhood have been the standing form,” and that two standing forms represent “the tender relationship of one living thing beside another.” As a female artist in a male-dominated art world, she focused on the way her art was presented and documented, taking photographs of her work, particularly in its surrounding environments, which were often nature and the outdoors.
Barbara Hepworth (British, 1903-1975), Two Forms with White (Greek), 1969, bronze with white paint, edition 4/7, 39 ¼ x 49 x 21 inches. Gift of Caryl Golden and Robert Zinner from the Estate of Kathryn B. Pollak, 39-1995.