Sotheby’s has unveiled a small-scale alabaster sculpture by Barbara Hepworth to go up for sale this fall. Small Form (November), 1962, will sell during the house’s upcoming online modern and post-war British art sale, which will be open to bidders from November 10-17. The work will be exhibited publicly at the houses’s London headquarters starting on November 13. It is expected to achieve a price between £300,000–500,000 ($390,000-650,000)
Measuring at just 5 ¼ inches in height, the work is a unique mid-career example. It has been exhibited publicly just once before at the artist’s solo exhibition at the Tate London in 1968. The artist gifted the work to Dominique de Grunne, a modern British art collector and Roman Catholic priest at Oxford University in June 1964. De Grunne met Hepworth in 1962 at the Royal College of Art. From there, the sculpture went to its second owner through Marlborough Galleries in London and now resides in a private American collection. It comes to the market after nearly five decades in private hands.
The work’s catalogue essay describes the piece as a “liquid carving that both celebrates pure abstraction in form whilst revealing a hint of a mother cradling a child.” Other examples of Hepworth’s white alabaster works are from her early career, when she learned to work with marble during her studies in Italy in the 1920s. These include Two Forms (1934) at the Tate and Large and Small Form (1934) at the Pier Art Centre in Orkney, Scotland.
In the market, Hepworth’s record was set at Christie’s in June 2014, when her large-scale sculpture Figure for Landscape sold for £4.1 million ($5.3 million). Hepworth’s Two Forms with White (Greek) achieved the artist’s second highest price of $4.9 million in June 2015 at Christie’s London.
Best known for her large-scale bronze abstract sculptures, by the late 1950s, Hepworth was well established. In 1962, she was the subject of a second exhibition at the Whitechapel Art Gallery in London, and in 1963, her commissioned sculpture, Winged Figure (1963), was mounted on the exterior of John Lewis department store in London. Later, she received the Grand Prix at 1959 São Paulo Biennial in 1959, following her Tate London survey the year prior.