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Dame Barbara Hepworth, 1903–1975


1948 to 1949
Blue limestone (Ancaster stone)
Overall: 47 × 26 1/2 × 15 inches (119.4 × 67.3 × 38.1 cm), Base or socle: 14 1/2 × 3 3/4 × 2 inches (36.8 × 9.5 × 5.1 cm)

Possibly signed

Possibly inscribed

Credit Line:
Yale Center for British Art, Gift of Virginia Vogel Mattern in memory of her husband, W. Gray Mattern, Yale BA 1946
Copyright Status:
© Bowness
Accession Number:
Paintings and Sculpture
Subject Terms:
abstract art
Not on view
IIIF Manifest:

A biolith is a sedimentary rock formed from fossilized animal remains. In 1939, Barbara Hepworth relocated from London to St. Ives in Cornwall, where, surrounded by magnificent cliffs, crescent beaches, and ancient rock formations, she became fascinated by geology. Biolithic rock often contains imprints of the organisms trapped between the layers of sediment and forms a repository of thousands of years of history. Here the ancient and the modern are collapsed into one form. The two faces that emerge from the marbled surface evoke fossilized organisms but retain the modernist simplicity the artist explored in the 1930s. Hepworth’s secretary at the time, David Lewis, wrote about this and similar pieces, saying that their "lithic forms" were "synonymous with the most ancient of man’s symbols, the monolith, lonely and foreboding" and absorbed the "cromlechs and the stone circles and granite obelisks of the Cornish landscape of Penwith."

Gallery label for installation of YCBA collection, 2020

Carvings and Drawings, Lund Humphries, London, 1952, pp. 122-123, J18 +H44 952R (LSF) [ORBIS]

Penelope Curtis, Barbara Hepworth's 'Biolith', 1948-49, Burlington Magazine, vol. 148, no. 12, December 2006, pp. 841-2, fig. 53, 54, N1 B87 + OVERSIZE (YCBA) [YCBA]

Penelope Curtis, Barbara Hepworth, Tate Britain, London, 1998, p. 17, No. 13, NJ18 H44 C86 1998 (YCBA) [YCBA]

Martina Droth, Britain in the world: Highlights from the Yale Center for British Art in honor of Amy Meyers, Yale University Press, New Haven, London, p. 152, N6761 .Y33 2019 (LC) (YCBA) [YCBA]

Exhibition of works by John Constable, Matthew Smith, Barbara Hepworth, organised by the British Council, 1950 , Lund Humphries, London, 1950, no. 79, N6768 E92 1950 (YCBA) [YCBA]

Exhibitions, Architectural Review, vol. 107, April 1950, p. 279, no. 3, NA1 A737 OVERSIZE (HAAS) [ORBIS]

Sally Festing, Barbara Hepworth, a life of forms , Viking, London, 1995, pp. 182-3, 200, NJ18 H44 F47 1995 (YCBA) [YCBA]

Matthew Gale, Barbara Hepworth, works in the Tate Gallery Collection and the Barbara Hepworth Museum, St Ives , Tate Publishing, London, 1999, pp. 116, 118, NJ18 H44 G32 1999 OVERSIZE (YCBA) [YCBA]

Dame Barbara Hepworth, A pictorial autobiography, Praeger, New York, NY, 1970, p. 57, no. 161, NJ18 H44 A3 1970 (YCBA) [YCBA]

Josef Paul Hodin, Barbara Hepworth, Editions du Griffon, Neuchatel, Suisse, 1959, p. 167, no. 155, NJ18 H44 A12 +H6414 OVERSIZE (YCBA) [YCBA]

Miranda Phillips, Barbara Hepworth sculpture garden, St Ives, Tate Publishing, London, 2002, p. 15, NJ18 H44 P55 2002 (YCBA) [YCBA]

Whitechapel Art Gallery, Barbara Hepworth, a retrospective exhibition of carvings and drawings from 1927-1954 , London, 1954, pl. M, xcat A (LSF) [ORBIS]

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