Barbara Hepworth (1903-75) was an internationally renowned sculptor whose finest work was produced in the years between the end of World War II and her death in 1975.
She was a prolific artist whose work can be seen in public places throughout the UK as well as in galleries and museums. The recently opened Hepworth Museum in Wakefield (2011) houses 44 full size model prototypes in plaster and aluminium, made in preparation for the works in bronze executed from the mid-1950’s to the end of her career.
Works appear in public places and collections across the world, from the US and Canada, through Europe, to China and Japan in the Far East.
Hepworth was an abstract artist who worked in a variety of materials – wood, stone, bronze and marble. She produced flowing, rhythmic sculptures that created impressions of objects rather than simple portraits of the objects themselves. She was drawn to smooth natural shapes rather than angular geometric blocks, although there are exceptions. She focused a good deal on the impact of light (and changing light) on her work. The characteristic pierced holes in her sculptures allow the light in and create a certain airiness a solid block would lack.
Three quotations from Hepworth will, I think, help an appreciation of her work:
‘I rarely draw what I see, I draw what I feel’. This is equally true of the sculptures.
‘Everything I make is to touch.’ This seems to me to be so important with sculpture. And the joy of the Hepworth Garden is the access to the works – the opportunity to touch.
‘I like the story to be implicit in the work and you make your own sense of it.’ I feel that the titles are often not helpful in terms of conveying what the sculptor had in mind. Does that matter? Sometimes I feel it would help!
Ascending Form (Gloria)