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Art HERstory: Barbara Hepworth


Barbara Hepworth

Yes, it’s true. Capricorns are the best. The Mountain Goats of the zodiac tend to be methodical, logical, analytical, and most of all persistent. The go-getter attitude of Capricorns is the reason behind their success and achievements. Dame Jocelyn Barbara Hepworth was no exception. Her persistence and diligent work earned her a place in the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire and the title of one of the most significant artists of the 20th century.
"Two Figures: (1954-5)

"Two Figures" (1954-5)

This young doeling was born on January 10, 1903 as the eldest of four. Her father was a civil engineer who worked in Wakefield, West Yorkshire where he raised his family. Her first love was math. It brought her closer to her father, and watching him work introduced her to the idea of technical drawing. She attended Wakefield Girls’ High School where her work received much praise and encouragement. Eventually, she won a scholarship to Leeds School of Art in 1920 where she began to study sculpture.

"Infant" (1929)

"Infant" (1929)

While at LSA she met fellow sculptor Henry Moore. The duo’s time together continued outside of LSA. The following year both Hepworth and Moore went to Royal College of Art. Hepworth finished the two year program at Leeds School of Art in a single year and earned a county scholarship to Royal College of Art. A true Capricorn woman!

"Conoid, Sphere and Hollow II" (1937)

"Conoid, Sphere and Hollow II" (1937)

Hepworth’s early sculptures at Leeds were quasi-naturalistic and were similar to the work of Moore. Despite the similarities, Hepworth’s work showed a tendency to add detail to simple pieces. She remained enrolled in the School of Sculpture at the Royal College of Art until 1924. The same year Hepworth was awarded another scholarship which provided the opportunity to study in Italy with other scholarship recipients. One of the other travelers was sculptor John Skeaping, her future husband.

"Theme on Electronics (Orpheus)" (1956)

"Theme on Electronics (Orpheus)" (1956)

Hepworth was married to Moore until 1931. The same year she met Ben Nicholson, who became her second husband a year later. Ben brought contemporary European developments in art to Hepworth’s attention. In 1933 the couple joined the artists’ group Abstraction-Création and British modern art group Unit One. During the 1930s Hepworth, Nicholson, and Moore were a dominating force in modern art. They were recognized as ‘the nucleus of the abstract movement in England.’

"Mother and Child" (1934)

"Mother and Child" (1934)

The art movement in London became less and less important during 1938. Hepworth and Nicholson decided to leave the city and relocate to St. Ives in Cornwall. Their travel began five days before the declaration of World War II. The Cornish landscape became inspiration for her work.

"Sculpture with Colour (Eos)" (1946)

"Sculpture with Colour (Eos)" (1946)

The late 30s and 40s also brought about Hepworth’s use of ‘the hole.’ The idea of putting a hollow in her sculptures came from the mathematical and logical side of Hepburn shining through. She was toying with the idea of mass and space.

"Tides" (1946)

"Tides" (1946)

In 1949 Hepworth acquired Trewyn Studio where she worked on her carving. In 1961 she moved her work to the Palais de Danse where she worked on her large scale sculptures. In this studio Hepworth created Single Form which was placed outside the United Nations building in New York in 1964. The following year she was recognized for her contributions to modern art by the Royal Family. She was a guest on the Queen’s Birthday Honour’s List and made a Dame of the British Empire.

Barbara Hepworth hard at work on a new, and intricate, work of art!

Barbara Hepworth hard at work on a new, and intricate, work of art!

Dame Jocelyn Barbara Hepworth died on May 20, 1975 when her studio home caught on fire. Withing a year after her death, Trewyn was to be opened as a museum and sculpture garden dedicated to her life’s work and is now a part of the Tate St. Ives. Her home and studio are now open as the Barbara Hepworth Museum. Outside of the museum, Hepworth’s work will be on display at The Hepworth Wakefield, a museum currently under construction in Wakefield. The museum is scheduled to open this year.

The signature of Barbara Hepworth on a piece of her art.

The signature of Barbara Hepworth on a piece of her art.


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