Winged Figure (1961-2), aluminium with stainless steel rods, 19 feet 3 inches in height (5.8 metres) attached to the side wall of John Lewis department store, Oxford Street/Holles street, London.
‘Winged Figure represents a significant moment in Barbara Hepworth’s later career as she started to move away from carving in wood and stone and began to work in metal. This was to have a radical effect on Hepworth’s sculpture, resulting in the kind of much airier, open forms that would have been almost impossible to undertake in stone or wood. In this sculpture, for example, it allowed her to experiment further with the stringed forms that had first made their appearance in her work in the early 1940s and probably derived from the influence of the sculptor Naum Gabo, a close friend from her pre-war Hampstead days and who, like Hepworth, had come down to live in St. Ives at the outbreak of the war. Gabo’s concerns were purely with geometric, constructivist forms however while in Hepworth’s work, as always, the formal idea relates to her feelings about the landscape and the figure. At that time she had written how ‘the strings were the tension I feel between myself and the sea, the wind and the hills’ and this sense of a ‘return to nature’ in her work following her settling permanently in St. Ives is the predominant characteristic of Winged Figure as well. For during these years her work had become increasingly bound up in her understanding of the Cornish landscape of the Penwith peninsular close to St. Ives and Winged Figure is very much a figure in a landscape. Its closeness to her Curved Form (Trevalgan) of 1956 certainly confirms this; a work about which Hepworth observed at the time that it had been ‘conceived standing on the hill called Trevalgan between St. Ives and Zennor. At this point, facing the setting sun across the Atlantic, where sky and sea blend with hills and rocks the forms seem to enfold the watcher and lift him toward the sky.’ (edit from Offer Waterman&co text about Winged figure)