Dame Barbara Hepworth
'Ascending Form (Gloria)' 1958

When we first examined this sculpture at the request of the Hepworth Estate there were colours on the surface that were unusual for an outdoor bronze. Closer examination revealed that there was a white material in many of the crevices surrounded by various colours of algae.

The Hepworth Estate kindly allowed us access to their photographic archives which showed that many casts of this sculpture originally had a white surface finish. With this in mind the sculpture was carefully surface cleaned and further white material was revealed suggesting that this cast would indeed have had a white finish over its entire surface but that much of this had been lost as a result of weathering over time.

Hepworth was adventurous in the use of patinas on bronze and worked closely with her foundry to achieve the colours and effects she wanted. These were often to emphasise contrast in her forms though her use of this kind of white finish on bronzes was extremely radical for the date. Documentary sources suggest that the Art Bronze Foundry (who cast the edition) created this effect with ‘white paint and the remains of white from the investment (the mould from casting bronzes)’ [1].

Although there was a great deal of the original white finish still remaining the overall visual effect was fragmentary overall. The treatment aimed to enhance the existing white with a white tinted wax to unify the surface. This sculpture is now maintained annually to clean the surface and replenish the tinted wax as required. The wax has the effect of bringing the sculpture’s appearance closer to that intended by the artist whilst being completely reversible.

[1] ‘Barbara Hepworth The Plasters: The Gift to Wakefield’ Ed Sophie Bowness. Lund Humphries. 2011

Sculpture  conservation restoration  maintenance programmes 


Dame Barbara Hepworth


'Ascending Form (Gloria)' 1958


Murray Edwards College