Barbara Hepworth, Winged Figure II, 1957

Barbara Hepworth, Winged Figure II, 1957, bronze, plastser, iron, 172,4 cm high

Barbara Hepworth prefers to see her sculptures outdoors, as is the case at Sonsbeek '58. In an interview, she says: "(...) no sculpture really lives until it goes back to the landscape, the trees, air and clouds."[1] Just as a sculpture depends on the changing landscape and weather, according to Hepworth, the landscape does not exist without mankind.[2] She puts the union of the landscape and humans at the centre of her work,[3] drawing inspiration from the surroundings of the remote coastal town of St. Ives in Cornwall, where she lived and worked from 1939.

Barbara Hepworth’s Winged Figure II (1957) consists of an asymmetrical shape with four oval-shaped cut-outs. Iron wires are stretched at the front, overlapping at a centre. These wires tighten the sculpture and give it an almost mathematical appearance. However, the basic shape has a playful feel to it. Besides this contrast, the white inside constrasts with the dark grey outside and the black wires.

Winged Figure II could be considered a representation of a human being because of its title.[4] Less obvious is the meaning of the threads. Given that they have no practical function, according to Rachel Smith, they could be interpreted as symbolic connections, between human and landscape.[5] This would mean that the landscape is not literally represented, but is present when the sculpture is placed in the landscape. Thanks to the gaps in the sculpture, the landscape is emphasised anyway. To experience a sculpture, looking is not enough according to Hepworth: physical contact is necessary to experience a sculpture.[6] When touching, the viewer, the artwork and the landscape simultaneously engage with each other.

[1] A.M. Hammacher, Barbara Hepworth, Londen 1989, p. 81. 
[2] H. Read, Barbara Hepworth: Carvings and Drawings, Londen 1952.
[3] B. Hepworth, “A Sculptor’s Landscape”, in: B. Hepworth en A. Bowness, Drawings from a Sculptor’s Landscape, London 1966, p. 9.
[4] For a catalogue, Hepworth wrote in 1951: “The forms which have had special meaning for me since childhood have been the standing form (which is the translation of my feeling towards the human being standing in landscape)(…)”, See: R. Smith, “Figure and Landscape: Barbara Hepworth’s Phenomenology of Perception”, Tate Papers, No. 20 (Fall 2013).
[5] Ibidem.
[6] B. Hepworth, “A Sculptor’s Landscape”, in: B. Hepworth en A. Bowness, Drawings from a Sculptor’s Landscape, London 1966, p. 11.