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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 of her generation 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.

Jocelyn Barbara Hepworth

Barbara Hepworth (1966) by Erling Mandelmann.jpg
Hepworth in 1966
Jocelyn Barbara Hepworth

10 January 1903
Died20 May 1975(1975-05-20) (aged 72)
St Ives, Cornwall
EducationLeeds School of Art, Royal College of Art
Known forSculpture
MovementModernism, Abstract art


Early lifeEdit

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] Hepworth 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"[3][4] 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.

Despite attempting to gain a position in what was a male-dominated environment,[5] Hepworth successfully won a county scholarship to attend the Royal College of Art (RCA) in London, and studied there from 1921 until she was awarded the diploma of the Royal College of Art in 1924.[6]

Early careerEdit

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.[7] In 1933, Hepworth co-founded the Unit One art movement with Nicholson and Paul Nash, the critic Herbert Read, and the architect Wells Coates.[8] The movement sought to unite Surrealism and abstraction in British art.[8]

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.[9]

Hepworth married Nicholson on 17 November 1938 at Hampstead Register Office in north London, following his divorce from his wife Winifred.[10] The couple had triplets in 1934, Rachel, Sarah, and Simon. Rachel and Simon also became artists. The couple divorced in 1951.[11]

St IvesEdit

Hepworth, Nicholson and their children went to live in Cornwall at the outbreak of the Second World War in 1939.[12]

Hepworth lived in Trewyn Studios in St Ives from 1949 until her death in 1975.[12] 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."[12] 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. [13]

Hepworth was also a skilled draughtsman. After her daughter Sarah was hospitalised in 1944, she struck up a close friendship with the surgeon Norman Capener.[14] 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.[14][15] 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."[14]

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.[16] The 1950 Biennale was the last time that contemporary British artists were exhibited alongside artists from the past.[16] Two early public commissions, Contrapunctal Forms and Turning Forms, were exhibited at the Festival of Britain in 1951.

During this period, Hepworth moved away from working only in stone or wood and began to work with bronze and clay.[12] Hepworth often used her garden in St Ives, which she designed with her friend the composer Priaulx Rainier, to view her large-scale bronzes.[12]

Death of son PaulEdit

Her eldest son, Paul, was killed on 13 February 1953 in a plane crash while serving with the Royal Air Force in Thailand.[17] A memorial to him, Madonna and Child, is in the parish church of St Ives.[18]

Exhausted, in part from her son's death, Hepworth travelled to Greece with her good friend Margaret Gardiner in August 1954.[17] They visited Athens, Delphi, and many of the Aegean Islands.[17]

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.[17] Although she received only a single tree trunk, Hepworth noted that the shipment from Nigeria to the Tilbury docks came in at 17 tons.[17] 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).[17]

Late careerEdit

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.[19]

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.[20] The latter was entitled "The Aegean Suite" (1971) and was inspired by Hepworth's trip to Greece in 1954 with Margaret Gardiner.[21] The artist also produced a set of lithographs entitled "Opposing Forms" (1970) with Marlborough Fine Art in London.[21]

Barbara Hepworth died in an accidental fire at her Trewyn studios on 20 May 1975 at the age of 72.[22]

Galleries and locations exhibiting her workEdit


In 1951 Hepworth was commissioned by the Arts Council to create a piece for the Festival of Britain.[41] The resulting work featured two Irish limestone figures entitled, "Contrapuntal Forms" (1950), which was displayed on London's South Bank;[41] it was later donated to the New Town of Harlow and displayed in Glebelands, where it remains. To complete the large-scale piece Hepworth hired her first assistants, Terry Frost, Denis Mitchell, and John Wells.[41]

From 1949 onwards she worked with assistants, sixteen in all.[42] One of her most prestigious works is Single Form,[43] 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.[44] 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.[45]


On 20 December 2011, her 1969 sculpture Two Forms 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.[46]

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." The sculpture has since been loaned to the city by RBS and can be seen in Wolverhampton City Art Gallery.


Hepworth was awarded the Grand Prix at the 1959 São Paulo Art Biennial.[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 the universities of Birmingham (1960), Leeds (1961), Exeter (1966), Oxford (1968), London (1970) and Manchester (1971).[10]

She was appointed CBE in 1958 and DBE in 1965.[10][47] In 1973 she was elected an honorary member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters.[48] 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.[49]

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.[50]


List of selected worksEdit

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
1953 Monolith-Empyrean 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 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 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,[52] but are both believed to be lost.


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

Further readingEdit


  • Festing, Sally (15 May 1995). Barbara Hepworth: A Life of Forms (1st ed.). London ; New York, N.Y: Viking. ISBN 978-0-670-84303-9.


  • Browse, Lilian; Gibson, Wiliam (1946). Barbara Hepworth Sculptress. Ariel Books on the Arts. London: Henval Press & Faber and Faber.
  • Hepworth, Barbara (1952). Barbara Hepworth: Carvings and Drawings (1st ed.). Lund Humphries.
  • Hepworth, Barbara (1954). Barbara Hepworth: Carvings and Drawings. Whitechappel Art Gallery.
  • Hodin, Jean P. (1961). Barbara Hepworth (1st ed.). Lund Humphries.
  • Shepherd, Michael (1963). Barbara Hepworth. Art in Progrees (1st ed.). Methuen.
  • Bowness, Alan (1966). Barbara Hepworth: drawings from a sculptor's landscape. Praeger.
  • Hepworth, Barbara (1982). Barbara Hepworth carvings, July–August 1982. Marlborough Fine Art.
  • Hammacher, A. M. (14 September 1987). Barbara Hepworth. World of Art (2 ed.). New York: Thames and Hudson Ltd. ISBN 978-0-500-20218-0.
  • Thistlewood, David (1 April 1996). Barbara Hepworth Reconsidered. Liverpool: Liverpool University Press. ISBN 978-0-85323-770-9.
  • Curtis, Penelope (1 April 1998). St. Ives Artists: Barbara Hepworth. St Ives Artists series. Tate. ISBN 978-1-85437-225-3.
  • Gale, Matthew; Stephens, Chris (1 January 2001). Barbara Hepworth: Works in the Tate Collection and the Barbara Hepworth Museum St Ives: Works in the Tate Gallery Collection and the Barbara Hepworth Museum St Ives (New ed.). Tate Publishing. ISBN 978-1-85437-347-2.
  • Phillips, Miranda; Stephens, Chris (1 January 2002). The Barbara Hepworth Sculpture Garden (First ed.). London; New York: Tate Publishing. ISBN 978-1-85437-412-7.
  • Bowness, Sophie (14 May 2003). Barbara Hepworth and the Yorkshire Landscape: An Anthology of Her Writings and Recollections. Yorkshire Sculpture Park. ISBN 978-1-871480-43-6.
  • Hepburn, Nathaniel (27 October 2012). Barbara Hepworth: The Hospital Drawings. New York, NY: Tate Publishing. ISBN 978-1-84976-165-9.
  • Bowness, Sophie; Chipperfield, David; Guy, Frances; Heuman, Jackie; Jackson, Tessa; Wallis, Simon; Watson, Gordon (28 May 2015). Barbara Hepworth: The Plasters (New ed.). Farnham, Surrey ; Burlington, VT : Wakefield, West Yorkshire: Lund Humphries. ISBN 978-1-84822-085-0.
  • Wilkinson, Alan (1 June 2015). The Drawings of Barbara Hepworth (New ed.). Farnham Surrey, UK ; Burlington, VT: Lund Humphries. ISBN 978-1-84822-164-2.

Exhibition cataloguesEdit

  • Hepworth, Barbara (1954). Barbara Hepworth: Retrospective Exhibition 1927–1954. London: Whitechapel Art Gallery.
  • Alley, Ronald; Reid, Norman; Oxenaar, R.W; Gray, Nicolette (1968). Barbara Hepworth. Tate Gallery.

External linksEdit