Barbara Hepworth - Sphere with colour (Grey and white).
Much of Hepworth’s sculptural work is white, or sometimes black or bronze. She also made some work of hard Nigerian guaranteed wood, which was sent to her by a friend. Her work often has the theme of pregnancy or childbirth, including abstract figures with a rounded, womb-like hole. The idea of “pierced” shapes was taken up by other sculptors at the time, notably Henry Moore. Hepworth had a son by her first marriage, and subsequently triplets when married to the artist Ben Nicholson.
This sculpture, unlike Hepworth’s mainly white sculptures, is carved from striped green marble. The indents, when viewed at a distance (at least 6 ft with one eye closed is best) as you walk around, appear to be floating above the surface, like moons orbiting a planet.
1964, the year before this sculpture is officially dated, was the 4th centenary of Galileo’s birth. He is famous for his use of the new technology of the telescope in observing Jupiter’s moons, Io, Europa, Ganymede, and Callisto. Hepworth had Italian friends, who could easily have written to her with letters bearing the contemporary postage stamps commemorating Galileo. Magazine articles were published at the time about new observations of Jupiter, which would have been easily visible shining brightly in the night sky from her studio in St Ives, overlooking the Atlantic Ocean.
However, Sphere with colour (Grey and White) has only three moon-like indents, whereas Jupiter has four main moons, as discovered by Galileo. Returning to Hepworth’s more common theme of pregnancy and motherhood, the question arises again, why only three indents?
Hepworth had four children; three were triplets. Could this refer to the triplets? Or could it be telling us about her oldest son Peter, an RAF pilot who was killed in a plane crash in Thailand ten years earlier (1953)? Mourning her son, she may have felt like a planet missing its moon.