Today is the birthday of probably the world’s most famous sculptress Barbara Hepworth (b.1903 – 1975 Yorkshire U.K. ). Hepworth made a significant contribution to the media of sculpture throughout her career. Her work defines Modernism. She was honoured with a Damehood in 1965, 10 years before her death.
A contemporary of Henry Moore, her early work was organic in form. In 1930 her work became more abstract (as opposed to representational) and in 1931 the artist achieved acclaim in Britain for her piercing of the form in sculpture (Pierced Form 1931, alabaster). Other sculptors were to follow suit including Moore. Later her work became more and more hollowed out and punctured. She also explored other mediums to work in beside alabaster and stone – like wood. She married abstract artist Ben Nicholson (her second husband) in 1932 and moved to their St Ives home after the War.
Hepworth joined the Unit One group in 1933 with Henry Moore and Paul Nash. This is what she wrote in the introduction to her book ‘Unit One’;-
“I do not want to make a stone horse that is trying to and cannot smell the air. How lovely is the horse’s sensitive nose, the dog’s moving ears and deep eyes; but to me these are not stone forms and the love of them and the emotion can only be expressed in more abstract terms. I do not want to make a machine which cannot fulfil its essential purpose; but to make exactly the right relation of masses, a living thing in stone, to express my awareness and thought of these things … In the contemplation of Nature we are perpetually renewed, our sense of mystery and our imagination is kept alive, and rightly understood, it gives us the power to project into a plastic medium some universal or abstract vision of beauty.”
What a wonderful quote that it is: it gives us an insight to Hepworth’s oeuvre. The passion and belief of the artist shows throughout her work.
Barbara Hepworth died in a fire at her home in St Ives, Cornwall in 1975. This is now a Museum dedicated to the artist. We went to visit a while ago and this post has some of the pictures we took. There is not much to see in the house – not much atmosphere, but the gardens are full of Hepworth. Her indoor studio, with aprons hanging from the door serve as a poignant reminder of this special artist, whilst the many sculptures in the gardens provide unexpected vistas of delight. This place is truly beautiful. Please visit if you are in St Ives, you will not be disappointed!
I celebrate more artist’s birthdays HERE