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Barbara Hepworth

Barbara Hepworth (1903-1975) artist, sculptor and print maker – a leading light in modernism.

Born in 1903 in Wakefield, in the West Riding of Yorkshire, Hepworth attended Leeds School of Art where she met fellow sculptor Henry Moore, with whom she maintained a friendly rivalry with throughout her career. From Leeds, Hepworth went on to attend the Royal College of Art in London, studying there from 1921-24.

Having graduated, Hepworth travelled to Italy, where she studied under sculptor Giovanni Ardini and learned to carve marble.  In Florence she was runner-up for the Prix-de-Rome, losing only to sculptor John Skeaping, with whom she began a relationship, marrying in 1925. Upon their return to London, Hepworth and Skeaping exhibited work from their flat until their divorce in 1929.

Hepworth’s early work reflects her interest in European art movements, particularly Italian Abstraction, however in 1931 she began to sculpt her characteristic pierced figures, and Henry Moore followed suit: the pair led the path to modernist sculpture.

At the outbreak of WWII, Hepworth moved to St. Ives, Cornwall with her second husband Nicholson and their children, along with many other artists who found refuge and space in Cornwall to continue working throughout the war. 

In 1950 Hepworth exhibited in the British Pavilion at the Venice Biennale. Two of her public commissions were exhibited at the Festival of Britain in 1951, and in 1953 she travelled to Greece, a trip which inspired her celebrated six-piece sculpture collection carved from Guarea wood between 1954-56.

In 1955, Hepworth begun to exhibit in the USA, beginning with the Martha Jackson Gallery. Preferring the European art market, she exhibited solo at Galerie Chalette, France in 1957, and her lithographs were hung in Marlborough Fine Art in 1970. The Barbara Hepworth Museum in St Ives and The Hepworth Wakefield in West Yorkshire permanently exhibit her work in honor of her contributions to both places that the artist at times called home. Her work is held by collections which include the Tate, the Dallas Museum of Art, the Art Institute of Chicago, the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongrewa and the Lynden Sculpture Garden.

In 2015, the Tate Britain held the first big solo exhibition of Hepworth’s work since her death, bringing together more than 70 of her works.

 

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