The purchase of the iconic Dame Barbara Hepworth sculpture, Curved Reclining Form (Rosewall), in 2005 secured its future not only for Chesterfield but also for the UK as a whole.
With an estimated value estimated at circa £1 million, Rosewall currently resides securely behind the Royal Mail’s Future Walk offices.
Walk over the pedestrian bridge from Queen’s Park into the town centre and you’ll find this beautiful abstract sculpture of a reclining form tucked away under the watchful eye of 24/7 CCTV. It weighs 2.5 tonnes, is nearly two and half metres high and is crafted out of a single block of Nebrasina, a marble-like stone usually sourced from Italy.
With the exception of a temporary exhibition at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park, Rosewall has spent its life in Chesterfield. It was originally commissioned in 1960 by the Royal Mail to mark the move of the Post Office Accountant General’s department to Chetwynd House in Chesterfield in 1963. Following the demolition of Chetwynd House in 1999 the sculpture was relocated to Future Walk.
In 2005 Royal Mail announced its intention to sell Rosewall on the open market. Chesterfield Borough Council and Bolsterstone Group, the company behind the ambitious £340million Waterside development, joined forces to purchase the sculpture after it was revealed that Rosewall was set to go to the US. It was purchased for £500,000 as part of the Percent for Art scheme which is run by Chesterfield Borough Council and invites developers of schemes costing more than £1million to include a work of art as part of their finished project.
Rosewell will be permanently located within Chesterfield Waterside’s Basin Square neighbourhood, the entrance of which is located near Chesterfield Train Station. Infrastructure and site preparation works to ready the site for Phase 1 of the £75million Basin Square neighbourhood are currently the subject of a live planning application, and once the buildings are complete Rosewall will be sited in the public realm next to the canal basin; a fitting permanent home for the sculpture as it was the Dame Barbara’s own wishes that the piece should be seen across water.
It is here that Rosewall will be able to be enjoyed by the thousands of people who will work, live, shop and visit the Waterside scheme every day following construction of an 84-bed hotel, 310 luxury apartments, shops and offices next year.
Peter Swallow Director of Bolsterstone Group, the company behind the Chesterfield Waterside development, said: “Rosewall will make an important centre piece for all residents, workers and visitors to Basin Square. The fact that the sculpture is now of Grade II listed status makes the move so much more special and I’m proud that we were able to keep it here in Chesterfield.”
Born in 1903 in Wakefield, West Yorkshire, Dame Barbara was one of the few female artists to achieve international prominence, exemplifying modernism and modern sculpture. Her artwork has risen to such popularity that, in 2015, Tate Britain launched the first large exhibition of her work since 1968 – the year she was appointed a Dame of the British Empire (DBE).
Her abstract forms, which are akin to caves and shells, were affected by Cornwall’s landscape, which is where Dame Barbara along with her husband Ben Nicholson, the renowned British painter, relocated from London with their children in 1939 shortly before the outbreak of war.
It was Cornwall that inspired the creation of Rosewall. It is actually namedafter the hill that rises west of St Ives where her Trewyn Studio was based. Explaining her inspiration for the sculpture she said: “[Rosewall] was conceived at the top of this hill and is a fusion of ideas – a composition of forms which express, for me, both the inward and outward perceptions in a new image. The stone is myself, gazing outward as countless thousands of people must have done during centuries in this place. The stone itself gazes out in awareness.’
Her response to nature was not romantic or mystical but more firmly based on actual observation. Circles and spheres had dominated her work. These were replaced by ovals which gave her sculptures two centres rather than one, complicating their interior form which typifies Rosewall.
Rosewall is is one of only four stone sculptures made by Dame Barbara before her untimely death in an accidental fire in 1975. As well as stone, Dame Barbara’s work was also made out of metals and wood such as mahogany and oak. Some of her iconic pieces include the Winged Figure on the side of John Lewis, Oxford Street in London, and Figure for Landscape, which is one of her many sculptures that is now in the US, in Washington.
In 2013, a Barbara Hepworth sculpture entitled Curved Form (Bryher II) made headlines when it set a new world record price for a work by the artist. The piece, which had been estimated to sell for between £1m- £1.5m, sold at auction for £2.4million.
In the UK Dame Barbara’s work can be viewed at her former home and studios, now known as the Barbara Hepworth Museum and Sculpture Garden. She lived and worked in Trewyn studios– from 1949 until her tragic death.
Following her wish to establish her home and studio as a museum of her work, Trewyn Studio and much of the artist’s work remaining there was given to the nation and placed in the care of the Tate Gallery in 1980, which now manages both the museum and garden.