Barbara Hepworth

Dame Barbara Hepworth

Hepworth in 1966
Born Jocelyn Barbara Hepworth
10 January 1903
Wakefield, West Riding of Yorkshire
Died 20 May 1975(1975-05-20) (aged 72)
St Ives, Cornwall
Nationality British
Education Leeds School of Art, Royal College of Art
Known for Sculpture
Movement Modernism, Abstract art
Awards DBE

Dame Jocelyn Barbara Hepworth DBE (10 January 1903 – 20 May 1975) was an English artist and sculptor. Her work exemplifies Modernism and in particular modern sculpture. She was one of the few female artists to achieve international prominence.[1] Along with artists such as Ben Nicholson and Naum Gabo, Hepworth was a leading figure in the colony of artists who resided in St Ives during the Second World War.

Early life

Jocelyn Barbara Hepworth was born on 10 January 1903 in Wakefield, West Riding of Yorkshire, the eldest child of Gertrude and Herbert Hepworth.[2] Her father was a civil engineer for the West Riding County Council, who in 1921 became County Surveyor.[2] An upwardly mobile family, and a dominant father determined her to exploit fully her natural talents.[3] She attended Wakefield Girls' High School, where she was awarded music prizes at the age of twelve as noted by Sophie Bowness in "Rhythm of the Stones: Barbara Hepworth and Music"[4][5] and won a scholarship to and studied at the Leeds School of Art from 1920. It was there that she met her fellow student, Henry Moore.[2] They became friends and established a friendly rivalry that lasted professionally for many years. Hepworth was the first to sculpt the pierced figures that are characteristic of works by both. They would lead in the path to modernism in sculpture.

Ever self-conscious as a woman in a man's world,[6] she then won a county scholarship to the Royal College of Art (RCA) and studied there from 1921 until she was awarded the diploma of the Royal College of Art in 1924.[7]

Early career

Following her studies at the RCA, Hepworth travelled to Florence, Italy, in 1924 on a West Riding Travel Scholarship.[1] Hepworth was also the runner-up for the Prix-de-Rome, which the sculptor John Skeaping won.[1] After travelling with him to Siena and Rome, Hepworth married Skeaping on 13 May 1925 in Florence.[2] In Italy, Hepworth learned how to carve marble from the master sculptor, Giovanni Ardini.[2] Hepworth and Skeaping returned to London in 1926, where they exhibited their works together from their flat.[2] Their son Paul was born in London in 1929.[1] Her early work was highly interested in abstraction and art movements on the continent. In 1933, Hepworth travelled with Ben Nicholson to France, where they visited the studios of Jean Arp, Pablo Picasso, and Constantin Brâncuşi.[2] Hepworth later became involved with the Paris-based art movement, Abstraction-Création.[8] In 1933, Hepworth co-founded the Unit One art movement with Nicholson and Paul Nash, the critic Herbert Read, and the architect Wells Coates.[9] The movement sought to unite Surrealism and abstraction in British art.[9]

Hepworth also helped raise awareness of continental artists amongst the British public. In 1937, she designed the layout for Circle: An International Survey of Constructivist Art, a 300-page book that surveyed Constructivist artists and that was published in London and edited by Nicholson, Naum Gabo, and Leslie Martin.[10]

Hepworth married Nicholson on 17 November 1938 at Hampstead Register Office in north London, following his divorce from his wife Winifred.[11] The couple had triplets in 1934, Rachel, Sarah, and Simon. Rachel and Simon also became artists. The couple divorced in 1951.[12]

St Ives

Hepworth, Nicholson and their children first visited Cornwall at the outbreak of World War II in 1939.[13]

Hepworth lived in Trewyn Studios in St Ives from 1949 until her death in 1975.[13] She said that "Finding Trewyn Studio was sort of magic. Here was a studio, a yard, and garden where I could work in open air and space."[13] St Ives had become a refuge for many artists during the war. On 8 February 1949, Hepworth and Nicholson co-founded the Penwith Society of Arts at the Castle Inn; nineteen artists were founding members, including Peter Lanyon and Bernard Leach. [14]

Hepworth was also a skilled draughtsman. After her daughter Sarah was hospitalized in 1944, she struck up a close friendship with the surgeon Norman Capener.[15] At Capener's invitation, she was invited to view surgical procedures and, between 1947-1949, she produced nearly eighty drawings of operating rooms in chalk, ink, and pencil.[15][16] Hepworth was fascinated by the similarities between surgeons and artists, stating: "There is, it seems to me, a close affinity between the work and approach of both physicians and surgeons, and painters and sculptors."[15]

In 1950, works by Hepworth were exhibited in the British Pavilion at the XXV Venice Biennale[2] alongside works by Matthew Smith and John Constable.[17] The 1950 Biennale was the last time that contemporary British artists were exhibited alongside artists from the past.[17]

During this period, Hepworth moved away from working only in stone or wood and began to work with bronze and clay [13] Hepworth often used her garden in St Ives, which she designed with her friend the composer Priaulx Rainier, to view her large-scale bronzes.[13]

Death of son Paul

Her eldest son, Paul, was killed on 13 February 1953 in a plane crash while serving with the Royal Air Force in Thailand.[18] A memorial to him, Madonna and Child, is in the parish church of St Ives.[19]

Exhausted, in part from her son's death, Hepworth travelled to Greece with her good friend Margaret Gardiner in August 1954.[18] They visited Athens, Delphi, and many of the Aegean Islands.[18]

When Hepworth returned to St Ives from Greece in August 1954, she found that Gardiner had sent her a large shipment of Nigerian guarea hardwood.[18] Although she received only a single tree trunk, Hepworth noted that the shipment from Nigeria to the Tilbury docks came in at 17 tons.[18] Between 1954-1956 Hepworth sculpted six pieces out of guarea wood, many of which were inspired by her trip to Greece, such as "Corinthos" (1954) and "Curved Form (Delphi)" (1955).[18]

Late career

The artist greatly increased her studio space when she purchased the Palais de Danse, a cinema and dance studio, that was across the street from Trewyn in 1960. She used this new space to work on large-scale commissions.[20]

Hepworth also experimented with lithography in her late career. She produced two lithographic suites with the Curwen Gallery and its director Stanley Jones, one in 1969 and one in 1971.[21] The latter was entitled "The Aegean Suite" (1971) and was inspired by Hepworth's trip to Greece in 1954 with Margaret Gardiner.[22] The artist also produced a set of lithographs entitled "Opposing Forms" (1970) with Marlborough Fine Art in London.[22]

Barbara Hepworth died in an accidental fire at her Trewyn studios on 20 May 1975 at the age of 72.[23]

Galleries and locations exhibiting her work

Two museums are named after Hepworth and have significant collections of her work: the Barbara Hepworth Museum in St Ives, Cornwall and the Hepworth Wakefield in West Yorkshire.[24][25]

Her work also may be seen at:


In 1951 Hepworth was commissioned by the Arts Council to create a piece for the Festival of Britain.[40] The resulting work featured two Irish limestone figures entitled, "Contrapuntal Forms" (1950), which was displayed on London's South Bank.[40] To complete the large-scale piece Hepworth hired her first assistants, Terry Frost, Denis Mitchell, and John Wells.[40]

From 1949 onwards she worked with assistants, sixteen in all.[41] One of her most prestigious works is Single Form,[42] which was made in memory of her friend and collector of her works, the former Secretary General Dag Hammarskjöld, and which stands in the plaza of the United Nations building in New York City.[43] It was commissioned by Jacob Blaustein, a former United States delegate to the U.N., in 1961 following Hammarskjöld's death in a plane crash.[44]


On 20 December 2011, her 1969 sculpture Two Forms (Divided Circle) was stolen, from its plinth in Dulwich Park, South London, suspicions are that the theft was by scrap metal thieves. The piece, which had been in the park since 1970, was insured for £500,000, a spokesman for Southwark Council said.[45]

One of the edition of six of her 1964 bronze sculpture, Rock Form (Porthcurno), was removed from the Mander Centre in Wolverhampton in the spring of 2014 by its owners, The Royal Bank of Scotland and Dalancey Estates. Its sudden disappearance led to questions in Parliament in September 2014. Paul Uppal, Member of Parliament for Wolverhampton South West said: "When the Rock Form was donated by the Mander family, it was done so in the belief it would be enjoyed and cherished by the people of Wolverhampton for generations… It belongs to, and should be enjoyed by, the City of Wolverhampton."


Hepworth was awarded the Grand Prix at the 1959 Sāo Paolo Bienal.[1] She also was awarded the Freedom of St Ives award in 1968 as an acknowledgment of her significant contributions to the town.[1] She was awarded honorary degrees from Birmingham (1960), Leeds (1961), Exeter (1966), Oxford (1968), London (1970), and Manchester (1971).[11] She was appointed CBE in 1958 and DBE in 1965.[11][46] In 1973 she was elected an honorary member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters.[47]

Following her death, her studio and home in St Ives became the Barbara Hepworth Museum, which came under control of the Tate in 1980.[1]

In 2011, the Hepworth Wakefield opened in Hepworth's hometown of Wakefield, England. The Museum was designed by the famed architect David Chipperfield.[48]

In January 2015 it was announced that Tate Britain was to stage the first big London show of Hepworth's work since 1968. It would bring together more than 70 of her works, including the major abstract carvings and bronzes for which she is best known. It would also include unseen photographs from the Hepworth archive, held by the Tate, including a self-photogram created in the 1930s and experimental photographic collages.[49]


  1. ^ "Corinthos 1954–5". UK: Tate Gallery. Retrieved 5 August 2015. 

List of selected works

1928 Doves Parian marble
1932–33 Seated Figure lignum vitae
1933 Two Forms alabaster and limestone
1934 Mother and Child Cumberland alabaster
1935 Three Forms Seravezza marble
1936 Ball Plane and Hole lignum vitae, mahogany and oak
1937 Pierced Hemisphere 1 white marble
1940 Sculpture with Colour (Deep Blue and Red) mixed
1943 Oval Sculpture cast material
1943–44 Wave wood, paint and string
1944 Landscape Sculpture wood (cast in bronze, 1961)
1946 Pelagos wood, paint and string
Tides wood and paint
1947 Blue and green (arthroplasty) 31 December 1947 oil and pencil on pressed paperboard
1948 Surgeon Waiting oil and pencil on pressed paperboard
1949 Operation: Case for Discussion oil and pencil on pressed paperboard
1951 Group I (Concourse) 4 February 1951 Serravezza marble
1953 Hieroglyph Ancaster stone
1954–55 Two Figures teak and paint
1955 Oval Sculpture (Delos) scented guarea wood and paint
1955–56 Coré bronze
1956 Curved Form (Trevalgan) bronze (see external link to collection of Margaret Gardiner)
1956 Orpheus (Maquette), Version II brass and cotton string
Stringed Figure (Curlew), Version II brass and cotton string
1958 Cantate Domino bronze
Sea Form (Porthmeor) bronze
1959 Curved form with inner form – anima bronze
1960 Figure for Landscape bronze
Archaeon bronze
Meridian bronze
1961 Curved Form (Bryher) bronze
1962–63 Bronze Form (Patmos) bronze
1963 Winged Figure bronze
1963-65 Sphere with Inner Form bronze
1964 Rock Form (Porthcurno) bronze
Sea Form (Atlantic) bronze
Oval Form (Trezion) bronze
Single Form bronze
1966 Figure in a Landscape bronze on wooden base
Four-Square Walk Through bronze
1967 Two Forms (Orkney) slate
1968 Two Figures bronze and gold
1969 Two Forms (Divided Circle) bronze
1970 Family of Man bronze
1971 The Aegean Suite series of prints
Summer Dance painted bronze
1972 Minoan Head marble on wooden base
Assembly of Sea Forms white marble
mounted on stainless steel base
1973 Conversation with Magic Stones bronze and silver

Marble portrait heads dating from London, ca. 1927, of Barbara Hepworth by John Skeaping, and of Skeaping by Hepworth, are documented by photograph in the Skeaping Retrospective catalogue,[50] but are both believed to be lost.


  1. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 Gale, Matthew "Artist Biography: Barbara Hepworth 1903-75" Retrieved 31 January 2014.
  2. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 Barbara Hepworth: Biography. Hepworth Estate. Retrieved 31 January 2014
  3. Festing, Sally (15 May 1995). Barbara Hepworth: A Life of Forms. London; New York, N.Y: Viking. pp. 10–25. ISBN 978-0-670-84303-9.
  4. Barbara Hepworth: Centenary. Tate Publishing. 2003. p. 25. ISBN 1-85437-479-6.
  5. Hepworth, Barbara (1970). Barbara Hepworth: A Pictorial Autobiography (1st ed.). New York: Praeger Publishers. LCCN 73-99496.
  6. Festing, Sally (1995). Barbara Hepworth: A Life of Forms. pp. xviii, 24.
  7. "Barbara Hepworth". Cornwall County Council. 2007. Retrieved 1 February 2014.
  8. "Abstraction-Création". Encyclopaedia Britannica. Retrieved 31 January 2014.
  9. 1 2 Paul Nash: Modern artist, ancient landscape: Room guide: Unit One: 'A Contemporary Spirit'. Tate Liverpool. Retrieved 31 January 2014.
  10. Barbara Hepworth: Single Form 1961. Peggy Guggenheim Collection, Venice. Retrieved 31 January 2014.
  11. 1 2 3 Bowness, Alan ([n.d.]). Life and Work. Hepworth Estate. Retrieved 31 January 2014.
  12. Riggs, Terry "Artist Biography: Ben Nicholson OM 1894-1982" Tate, Retrieved 29 January 2014.
  13. 1 2 3 4 5 About Barbara Hepworth Museum and Sculpture Garden. Tate St Ives. Retrieved 31 January 2014.
  14. Penwith Society. Cornwall Artists Index. Retrieved 31 January 2014.
  15. 1 2 3 "Barbara Hepworth: The Hospital Drawings 27th November 2012". Pallant House Gallery. Retrieved 11 February 2016.
  16. Hepburn, Nathaniel (3 September 2013). Barbara Hepworth: The Hospital Drawings. New York, NY: Tate. ISBN 978-1-84976-165-9.
  17. 1 2 "Timeline: 1950 Group show". British Pavilion in Venice. British Council. Retrieved 25 February 2014.
  18. 1 2 3 4 5 6 Stephens, Chris (1998). Dame Barbara Hepworth: Two Figures (Heroes) 1954. Tate. Retrieved 31 January 2014.
  19. "Selected sculptures: Madonna and Child". Hepworth Estate. Retrieved 31 January 2014.
  20. Bowness, Sophie. St Ives. Hepworth Estate. Retrieved 31 January 2014.
  21. Behrman, Pryle. "Fifty Years at the heart of British Printmaking" Archived 19 February 2014 at the Wayback Machine. Retrieved 31 January 2014.
  22. 1 2 "Barbara Hepworth: Graphic works 26 April 2013 - 7 Feb 2014". The Hepworth Wakefield. Retrieved 11 February 2016.
  23. Bowness, Sophie. "Biography". Sophie Bowness. Retrieved 11 February 2016.
  24. "Yorkshire's major new art gallery, opening 21 May 2011". Hepworth Wakefield. Archived from the original on 10 March 2011. Retrieved 29 January 2014.
  25. "New Barbara Hepworth gallery opens in Wakefield". BBC News. 21 May 2011. Archived from the original on 21 May 2011.
  26. "University of Liverpool's Photos - University of Liverpool | Facebook". Retrieved 23 August 2015.
  27. Facilities: Art History, Film and Visual Studies; University of Birmingham Retrieved 14 September 2014.
  28. "Selected sculptures: Figure (Archaean)". Hepworth Estate. Retrieved 29 January 2014.
  29. "Selected sculptures: Three Obliques (Walk-In)". Hepworth Estate. Retrieved 29 January 2014.
  30. "Selected sculptures: Two Forms (Divided Circle)". Hepworth Estate. Retrieved 29 January 2014.
  31. "Selected sculptures: Four-Square (Walk Through)". Hepworth Estate. Retrieved 29 January 2014.
  32. "History of Art". Murray Edwards College, Cambridge. Archived from the original on 14 September 2013. Retrieved 29 January 2014.
  33. "Commissions: Winged Figure". Hepworth Estate. Retrieved 29 January 2014.
  34. "Norwich Sculpture Trails: 2 Around the Cathedral and the Castle" (PDF). Recording Archive for Public Sculpture in Norfolk and Suffolk. Retrieved 29 January 2014.
  35. "Selected sculptures: Construction (Crucifixion)". Hepworth Estate. Retrieved 29 January 2014.
  36. "Leeds Art Gallery Online". Retrieved 29 January 2014.
  37. "Dame Barbara Hepworth - Tate", Tate, Retrieved 16 November 2014.
  38. "Collection".
  39. "Collection - Lynden Sculpture", Lynden Sculpture Garden, Retrieved 23 November 2014.
  40. 1 2 3 Commissions: Contrapuntal Forms. Hepworth Estate. Retrieved 31 January 2014.
  41. Festing, Sally (1995). Barbara Hepworth: A Life of Forms. pp. xx, 185–6, 197, 214, 219–20.
  42. "Commissions: Single Form". Hepworth Estate. Retrieved 29 January 2014.
  43. MacCarthy, Fiona."The ambition of Barbara Hepworth" The Guardian, Retrieved 31 January 2014.
  44. Fact Sheet: History of United Nations Headquarters Retrieved 31 January 2014.
  45. "Barbara Hepworth sculpture stolen from Dulwich park". BBC News. 20 December 2011. Retrieved 29 January 2014.
  46. The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 43667. p. 5480. 4 June 1965. Retrieved 16 October 2010.
  47. Deceased Members: Deceased Foreign Honorary Members. American Academy of Arts and Letters. Retrieved 31 January 2014.
  48. "Our gallery". The Hepworth Wakefield. Retrieved 11 February 2016.
  49. Mark Brown. "Tate Britain brings Barbara Hepworth out of the shadows and back in focus". The Guardian. Retrieved 23 January 2015.
  50. John Skeaping 1901–80: A Retrospective (exhibition catalogue). London: Arthur Ackermann and Son, 1991, p. 7

Further reading



Exhibition catalogues

Wikimedia Commons has media related to Barbara Hepworth.
Wikiquote has quotations related to: Barbara Hepworth

External links

This article is issued from Wikipedia - version of the 12/2/2016. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.