Dame Barbara Hepworth
'Four Square (Walk Through)' 1966

This monumental bronze sculpture forms a much-loved focal point within the grounds of Churchill College, Cambridge. In 2007 some unsightly patches of corrosion became apparent on two of its vertical faces and we were contacted for advice. Internal corrosion of a number of steel core pins left in situ during casting had worked through to the surface after prolonged exposure to the elements. We provided a liaison conservator specialising in bronze sculpture to advise and co-ordinate the investigation and treatment of this important artwork. This was to be carried out in close collaboration with a senior conservator from the Fitzwilliam Museum and a curatorial team from Churchill College.

The decision was taken to remove the steel elements from the bronze and to replace them with bronze welds to prevent any similar problems in future. Finally the repaired areas would require re-patination to blend with the surrounding aged green patina. We carried out detailed background research, with the kind assistance of The Hepworth Estate and Churchill College Archive.

Early photographs were traced which showed the original appearance of the work and revealed that that there had originally been a clear contrast between the brightly polished rings around pierced areas and the darker artificial patina given to the vertical surfaces. Weathering had now converted the whole to a uniform dark green. With this in mind we collated our initial findings into a detailed report proposing a number of possible treatment options. Our conservator advised on suitable foundries to be contacted to provide further advice and tender for repairs.

After careful consideration the project team decided that the sculpture should be fully de-installed and each element investigated at the foundry to ensure that no more steel core pins remained hidden within the bronze. The hollow interiors of each section of the sculpture would also be examined to make certain that there was no debris that could act as a source of corrosion in future. With the added evidence from the photographs, it was agreed that the rings should be re-polished, taking care to replicate the original surface finish as far as possible, so that the final appearance of the sculpture would be closer to the artist’s intent.

The Hepworth Estate gave their approval for the treatment plan along with generous funding for the treatment, which was then carried out at the foundry with regular visits from the project team to view progress. Our conservator was present at the foundry when the rings were polished to advise on the final finish. In September 2009 the treatment was finally complete and the sculpture was re-installed back in its original position, its appearance quite transformed by the newly restored contrast with the polished rings. The sculpture continues to be monitored by the conservation department at The Fitzwilliam Museum and a regular maintenance programme is planned.

Sculpture  conservation restoration  restoration cleaning and repair 


Dame Barbara Hepworth


'Four Square (Walk Through)' 1966


The Fitzwilliam Museum