Figure and mirror, an 18 x 13½in (45 x 35cm) signed pencil and gesso on board from 1948, dated from the year before Barns-Graham married the art critic, curator and writer David Lewis.
The two women had met shortly after Barns-Graham arrived in St Ives in March 1940. Being the younger of the two, meeting Hepworth made a lasting impression on Barns-Graham who was struck by her physical appearance, strength of personality and growing reputation.
They quickly began developing a friendship based partly their shared experience of being female artists in the small Cornish enclave dominated by male artists.
While Hepworth is best known for her large-scale Modernist sculptures, the most sought after of which are million-pound propositions, she also produced a series of exquisite drawings and prints as she explored forms that influenced her practice as a sculptress. In 1966, she wrote: “The wonderful structure of the human frame is an architecture of highest proportion… I rarely draw what I see. I draw what I feel in my body.”
Most Hepworth drawings available on the market have semi-abstract subjects relating quite directly to her three-dimensional work. This example, however, was much more representational and intimate which, in addition to its rarity and attractive provenance, gave it extraordinarily strong commercial appeal.
Offered with a £100,000-150,000 estimate at the auction at the Mall Galleries in London on October 28, it drew prolonged bidding before it was knocked down at £380,000, more than doubling the auction record for a Hepworth drawing.
Lyon & Turnbull would not release any details about the buyer but said that the 72-lot sale, which raised a £930,050 total (including premium), attracted “a broad mixture of buyers from across the UK and international marketplaces”.