Barbara Hepworth – Abstract notions

UK * 1903-1975


Barbara Hepworth was born 10 January 1903 in Wakefield, Yorkshire, UK, as the eldest child of Herbert and Gertrude Hepworth. In 1920 she starts at the Leeds School of Art, where Henry Moore is a fellow student. One year later she moves to London to study sculpture at the Royal College of Art and in 1923 she is awarded the diploma.

The following year she travels to Florence, Italy, to study Romanesque and early Renaissance art and architecture and pays a short visit to Rome. In 1925 she spends two months in Siena before marrying sculptor John Skeaping in the Palazza Vecchio, Florence, and remain in the city for three months before moving to Rome. There she learns to carve marble from master carver Giovanni Ardini and visits Carrara.

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“Pelagos” – Barbara Hepworth (1946)

Due to her husband’s ill-health they return to the UK and after a brief stay in St John’s Wood, they move to the studio at The Mall, Hampstead, where she would stay until 1939. A series of exhibitions with John Skeaping would follow until their separation in 1931 (they would divorce in 1933).  

The year 1932 marks the next stage in her career as she carves her first holedsculpture, Pierced Form (Abstraction), but the piece is destroyed during the Second World War. The painter Ben Nicholson moves in with her and together they visit France, where she meets Picasso and Braque. By 1936 her work gains increasingly worldwide recognition and the Museum of Modern Art in New York acquires her work “Discs in Echelon” (1935).

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Pelagos – Barbara Hepworth (1961-63)

They spend time in St Ives and Carbis Bay during the war and in November 1940, works left in the Mall studio are destroyed by bombs. However, the ensuing decades would prove to be productive for the sculptor.  In 1956 she starts to work in sheet metal and bronze international acclaim would develop further and would see her exhibit in Brazil, where she is awarded the major prize, and the USA. At the 7th Tokyo Biennale (1963) she wins the Foreign Minister’s Award.

She continues to exhibit worldwide , including the US (1966) and Japan (1970). Her last exhibition is in March-April 1974 at the Marlborough Gallery, New York.

Barbara Hepworth dies on 20 May 1975 in an accidental fire at Trewyn Studio.