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Saturday, 13 June 2015

Barbara Hepworth: linking the numinous with the real

Barbara Hepworth: Sculpture for a Modern World at Tate Britain includes mention of Hepworth's spirituality.

'In 1931, [Barbara Hepworth] made a sculpture in pink alabaster (destroyed in the war), which she pierced for the first time. This “irrational, inorganic piercing of the closed form”, as AM Hammacher describes it, “entailed a literal and spiritual breakaway from the tradition of the closed volume”.

Hepworth said: “I had felt the most intense pleasure in piercing the stone in order to make an abstract form and space; quite a different sensation from that of doing it for the purpose of realism.” The technique became integral to her art, expressing not just her sculptural creed, but – as Lucy Kent points out in the Tate catalogue – giving expression to her spiritual beliefs, allowing her, as a Christian Scientist, to find a way of expanding the inner life of her sculptures beyond their physical limitations, of linking the numinous with the real.' (Sarah Crompton)

Pam Twiss notes that, 'Although Ben [Nicholson] was clearly interested and gained much from Christian Science - and Barbara [Hepworth] toyed with its teachings - neither were fully committed Christian Scientists. Of the three, only Winifred [Nicholson] was a Christian Scientist in the sense of being a member of The First Church of Christ, Scientist, in Boston, Mass.(The Mother Church) and active in local branch churches.'

Henry Myric Hughes writes that 'Winifred, whose own talents were considerable, seems not merely to have given Nicholson confidence in his artistic mission, but to have provided him with a rationale for continuing to work. Through her, he came into contact with the teachings of Christian Science, and the author argues, plausibly enough, that these strengthened his belief in the spiritual value of his art and its enduring ability to communicate values of universal significance.'

In an essay written for The Christian Science Monitor in 1965, Barbara Hepworth wrote: `I believe most strongly that any sculpture made now should be valid in its form and ideas a thousand years hence. A sculpture should be an act of praise, an enduring expression of the divine spirit.'

As Chancellor of Salisbury, Moelwyn Merchant acknowledged Hepworth's success in expressing the divine spirit by accepting from Hepworth, his friend, the gift of a large bronze Crucifixion which he controversially had placed near the door of the cathedral. To him it was an important expression of faith by a major contemporary artist; to some conservative Salisbury residents, it was threatening and sacrilegious.


Patti Smith - Tarkovsky (The Second Stop Is Jupiter).

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