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Single Form

Hepworth remained engaged with political debates in the post-war period. By 1952, Britain had become the third nuclear power, after America and the Soviet Union. The Labour Party, of which Hepworth would become a member in 1956, called for a moratorium on nuclear testing in 1954, but the government continued to develop nuclear weapons. Hepworth wrote in protest: ‘To remain inert in this matter, or to argue over expediency, is to disbelieve in the power of good, and the moral courage generated by affirmative action.’

She became an advocate for the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, connecting the desire to protect life with her experience as a mother. In 1961 she co-authored a statement signed by artists, musicians and writers: ‘Culture means the affirmation of life. There can be no true culture while we make stock-piles of nuclear weapons – they are the negation of life.’

In 1956, Dag Hammarskjöld, Secretary General of the United Nations, selected one of Hepworth’s sculptures for his office, starting a correspondence that became a friendship. They met in London when Hammarskjöld gave an address on the UN’s diplomatic role in achieving global nuclear disarmament in 1958.

Hammarskjöld had considered commissioning a sculpture by Hepworth for the pool in front of the UN Headquarters in New York, and Hepworth recalled: ‘We talked about the nature of the site, and about the kind of shapes he liked. I also made [Single Form] Chûn Quoit and the small walnut carving, Single Form (September), with Dag in mind’. Chûn Quoit refers to a Neolithic stone arrangement in Cornwall, and Hepworth saw these forms as symbols of protection: ‘The standing stone is a sign of our desire for survival and security’. In September 1960 Hammarskjöld was killed in a plane crash, and the commission proceeded in his memory.

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Art & Life by Eleanor Clayton. Buy online

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