24 FEBRUARY 1950, Page 13


IF there are those to whom all abstract art looks the same, let them consider Messrs. Miro, Leger and Miss Barbara Hepworth. Miro you can see at the London Gallery. It is not a particularly good exhibition, so that the painter appears more limited than, in fact, he is. Nevertheless one may glimpse here and there the artist's personality—gay, whimsical, delighted with pretty toys of the imagination. His shapes—now like a waving leek, now a horned snail, now a cluster of exploding stars—dance to a lighthearted hurdy-gurdy tune without philosophic undertones. It seems proper that one of his happiest essays of recent years has been a mural decoration to aid digestion in a Cincinnati hotel restaurant. Leger is a decorator too, but by contrast ponderous and humour- less. The retrospective exhibition at the Tate shows how far he has come since his first tumbling, fragmented forms, and the early days of le style micanique (now difficult to dissociate from the linoleum designs to which it gave birth). The more recent work is by far the best.,The figure-concepts, the great amoeba shapes, the heavy spars, reach an elephantine equipoise that is in no way disturbed by the fluttering, flickering, fronded detail. Few living painters could fill so vast an area as that occupied by Composition with Parrots with

such magisterial aplomb. Nevertheless, I find an immense aridity in the permutations of his limited vocabulary. It is not merely that the entire absence of any concession to charm of colour or medium inevitably renders Leger's work distasteful. It is surely that the amputation of all organic sensibility has caused a final loss of life.

Barbara Hepworth reveals a somewhat schizophrenic working personality in her new show at the Lefevre Gallery. Her " realistic " drawings are so much trickery. Divested of the carefully prepared ground, the glazes, the scratchings and smudgings, the different coloured pencils (and the elegant frames), and imagined for a moment on white paper, they will be seen to be pedestrian and indecisive. But the sculpture ! Miss Hepworth is one of the artists who will represent Great Britain at the Venice Biennale this summer, and she deserves the honour. This exhibition includes some of the best things she has ever done, and in her carvings she seems at last to have reached that synthesis of " real " and abstract forms which has eluded her in the past. The Cosdon Head in blue marble, Biolith in blue ancaster stone, Eocene in Portland stone, Pendour like a great pierced marrow and the two elm " figures " as still and pure as nuns, the half-length figure in Portland stone Perianth— these are exciting voyages of exploration for the eye. Where Miro's and Leger's abstractions are decorative only, the authority and

mystery of organic life remains in these. M. H. MIDDLETON.