Four-Square (Walk Through)

Barbara Hepworth (English, 1903-1975)
169 x 88 x 78-1/2 in. (429.3 x 223.5 x 199.4 cm) 
Edition of 3, Cast No. 1
Credit Line:
Norton Simon Art Foundation 
Accession Number:
© Bowness, Hepworth Estate 
On View

Barbara Hepworth redefined sculpture in 1931 when she first pierced a hole through an abstract work of stone. To Hepworth, the incorporation of negative space into a composition was a way to negate any perceived hierarchy between mass and space, and to establish a more balanced, intimate relationship between these two elements. Over the following three decades she continued to develop her work with an increasingly sophisticated interest in the space of sculpture, its position as a three-dimensional object, its engagement with its surroundings, and its relationship to both viewer and sculptor alike.

Hepworth herself had a formidable sense of physicality, and much of her creative output draws on her own spatial presence. Indeed she has referred to her work as her “own sculptural anatomy,” and this relationship is particularly acute in her monumental bronzes created during the 1960s. During that time she began to play with more rectilinear geometries, inviting circular shapes to overlap with angular ones. This approach is not unlike the breakthrough abstract paintings created by her second husband, Ben Nicholson, whom she divorced in 1951 but with whom she shared similar artistic goals. On works like the enormous Four-Square (Walk Through) Hepworth once wrote, “Piercings through forms became dominant. Could I climb through and in what direction? Could I rest, lie, or stand within the forms? Could I, at one and the same time, be the outside as well as the form within?” Indeed, her very being became one with her sculpture, the two impossible to distinguish from one another.

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